What started out to be a typical day for those visiting a Detroit Zoo, soon turned into something they thought they’d never see in their lifetime.
Two chimpanzee were having fun chasing one another when the unthinkable happened. One of them accidentally slipped and fell into the moat surrounding the exhibition enclosure.
Watching in despair, a bystander, Rick Swope, said the chimp look scared, and the situation seemed desperate.
Chicago Tribune reports:
Rick Swope wastn’t to be a hero. But he couldn’t stand by and watch a chimpanzee drown.
“It was the most pitiful thing I ever saw, “Swope said. “This chimp had his hands up and his head was sticking out of the water. He was looking at the crowd. It was like he wanted someone to rescue him.
A 33-year-old truck driver from Cement City, Mich., Swope was at the Detroit Zoo’s new chimp exhibit Sunday with his wife and three children when he heard a splash. Dozens of visitors and workers watched as a chimpanzee thrashed in a moat surrounding the exhibit.
Swope, who is 5 feet 10 and 200 pounds, said Monday he gave no thought to his own safety. He said he wasn’t aware that chimps have three to five times the strength of humans; he just jumped in and grabbed the 135-pound animal.
On his first try, he lost his grip on the chimp in water 5 feet deep. Zoo workers warned him to get out. Visitors cheered him on.
“People . . . were showing me which direction he was in,” Swope recalled. “The water was so dirty you couldn`t see through it. I swam around on the bottom. Finally I found him.”
Slipping on the clay slope, Swope pulled the chimp onto the shore, lifting him over a cable designed to keep chimps from slipping into the water. “He was pretty lifeless, but you could see he was still alive,” Swope said. “He was looking at me. I think he knew what was going on.
“The monkey never made any attempt to do anything to me.
“I was thinking, what do you do now? Do you do mouth-to-mouth on a monkey? I remember thinking he might bite me if I did that.
“Then I looked up and saw there was another one coming down the hill with his teeth bared. I didn’t know if he was going after the other monkey or after me, but I got the hell out of there.”
Swope said he felt sheepish when people started clapping.
“It was no big deal, you know,” he said. “It wasn`t nothin’ that hard. It didn’t take an exceptional person to do it. If it did, I couldn`t have done it.”
Zoo director Steve Graham said he hasn’t decided how the zoo will thank Swope: “At the very least we’re going to bring his family down and I`ll give them a tour of the zoo in dry clothes.”
“He’s the most unassuming person on Earth,” Graham said. “He was embarrassed by the attention.”
Watch Rick in action in the below video: