Emotional Meeting When 59-Year-Old Dying Chimpanzee “Mama” Is Visited By Old Human Friend Jan van Hooff

When a 59-year-old dying chimpanzee is visited by her old human friend during her final week, you can see that she is overwhelmed with joy.

I’m not crying, you’re crying! You can pinpoint the exact moment when “Mama” recognizes Jan van Hooff, who co-founded the colony of chimps to which she belonged to, and it appears as if she tries to smile at him. Before van Hooff visited her, she had been curled up in a ball and refusing food from the zookeepers. Once he got there, you can see her mood turn around as she appears to be thankful for his visit.



Mama has known Jan van Hooff since 1972 when he co-founded the famous chimpanzee colony at the Royal Burgers Zoo in Holland, where she was a former matriarch. Although her colony was the first ever chimp colony to be raised in a zoo, Mama was raised in the wild. Her title in the colony soon became “grand lady” due to her dominant personality.

After van Hooff’s visit, Mama sadly passed away about a week later.

A behavioral scientist who worked with Mama, Frans de Waal, said:

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