Dying Chimpanzee Recognizes Professor Friend Before Smiling and Embracing Him

October 20, 2017 Updated: October 22, 2017

An elderly, dying chimpanzee was recorded being happy to see a professor, who first met the animal back in 1972.

“Mama,” a former chimpanzee matriarch at Royal Burgers Zoo in Holland, was refusing food from zookeepers. Then, she was met by Jan van Hooff, who met her decades ago.

The ape was unresponsive and curled in a ball before reacting with joy after seeing the professor, The Independent reported.

Mama then touched his face and held the back of his neck.


A week later, she died.

Frans de Waal, a biologist and primatologist who worked with Mama, told the Independent, “She had an exceptionally strong and dominant personality, so that no man who wanted to come to power could do so around her. She also brought consolation when there were tensions and mediated conflicts.”

She had been refusing to eat before the professor showed up. (YouTube/screenshot)
The 59-year-old primate gave him a hug. (YouTube/screenshot)

“She will be sorely missed, also by me, because I have rarely seen such an admirable character in both humans and apes.”

The video was captured in 2016, but it is making the rounds again online.

According to the Professor van Hooff’s account of the incident:

Mama, 59 years old and the oldest chimpanzee and the matriarch of the famous chimpanzee colony of the Royal Burgers Zoo in Arnhem, the Netherlands, was gravely ill. Jan van Hooff (emeritus professor of Ethology and Socio-Ecology at Utrecht University and co-founder of the Burgers colony) who has known Mama since 1972, visited her in the week before she died of old age in april 2016. It took a while before she became aware of Jan’s presence. Her reaction was extremely emotional and heart-breaking. Mama played an important social role in the colony. This has been described in “Chimpanzee Politics” by Frans de Waal, who studied the colony since 1974.