Mama was a 59-year-old chimpanzee and a very special one at that. She was the matriarch of a colony located in the Royal Burgers Zoo in the Netherlands. At the age of 59, she was in the autumn years of her life and the end appeared to be approaching quickly.
Her current caretakers tried to make her comfortable.
She had stopped eating and drinking. It appeared that she had accepted that this would be the end of her long and spectacular life. Those who cared for her knew that her suspicions were right, but they didn’t want Mama to pass before she had a chance to reunite one last time with her long-time caretaker and friend, professor Jan van Hooff.
The last goodbye was a sad but inspirational exclamation of the life Mama and Jan had shared.
The professor was eager to reconnect. Mama was very special to him, but he hadn’t seen her for a long time. He wasn’t sure how things would go after such a long period of being apart, but he came to pay his last respects to her and honor all she has done for visitors of the zoo, her colony of other chimps, research, and of course, Jan himself.
Mama was suffering a great deal when the professor arrived, and it took several moments for her to awake to the reality of who this stranger was who was visiting in such tough times.
The change in Mama was dramatic.
When Mama recognized Jan’s voice, she was stunned and elated at the same time. Her sudden energized reaction was both beautiful and heartbreaking to see.
They caressed each other and hugged a final farewell, bringing closure to a bond that had begun in 1972.
Medically speaking, the effort it took to her to break from her lethargy and say thank you to the man she adored was almost miraculous.