During a visit with his family to the Detroit Zoo in 1990, Rick Swope found himself in a situation he could never have imagined. While at the zoo's ape exhibit, he, along with a crowd of zoo visitors, watched a chimp fall into a water-filled moat that served as a barrier for the area.
The 135-pound chimp, Jo-Jo, had been running to escape a more aggressive chimp in the exhibit when he fell into the moat. The cable in the ape's enclosure was there to prevent such a fall, but on this fateful day, the cable failed to work.
Chimps can't swim, so when Jo-Jo fell into the water, he was in mortal danger.
"Everyone in the whole place was just standing around watching this monkey drown," Swope told The Dodo. "When he went down the second time I knew I had to do something."
Despite being told to stay where he was by a zookeeper, and when he saw the look on the chimp's face, Swope was poised to take action.
"It was the most pitiful thing I ever saw," Swope said to the Chicago Tribune. "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.
"I was really kind of hoping somebody else would do it. But when nobody did, I knew that if I didn't, I'd go home and kick myself in the butt," Swope said.
He left his family's side, climbed over the security wall and jumped into the water. The water was five feet deep and murky. "People . . . were showing me which direction he was in," Swope said. "The water was so dirty you couldn't see through it. I swam around on the bottom. Finally I found him."
Swope finally found Jo-Jo, put his arm around the chimp and began to swim him safely to a nearby bank.
But Swope's grip slipped and Jo-Jo went down in the water again. Undeterred, Swope grabbed the chimp again and guided him to the shore.
The onlookers cheered and celebrated as the rescuer brought Jo-Jo to the shore. “He was pretty lifeless, but you could see he was still alive,” Swope recalled. “He was looking at me. I think he knew what was going on.”
Chimps are five times stronger than human beings, and the ape enclosure was filled with other chimps who could turn aggressive without warning. Regardless, Swope felt it was important to risk all to save another life.
Despite his heroism, Swope deflected any accolades. "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."
We beg to differ, and we congratulate Swope for his natural instinct to save another living being in danger of losing its life. Watch the exciting rescue video below, and share this story with your family and friends on Facebook.