For those standing near the chimpanzee exhibit, a typical day at the Detroit Zoo rapidly descended into pandemonium. Spectators were enthralled as two chimps giggled and chased one another around the area, but then everything changed.
Rick Swope was standing right in front of the enclosure and decided to step in and help instead of watching on the sidelines.
One of the chimps slipped and fell into the moat that surrounded the exhibit just as the other began to chase one another around the enclosure’s trees. It was clear that the chimp was battling to stay afloat, yet zoo personnel refused to assist him.
Rick told the Chicago Tribune how desperate the situation was and how scared the animal looked.
“It was the most pitiful thing I ever saw. 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.”
Rick noticed that no one else was willing to take action, so he did. He explained what happened once in the water to the Chicago Tribune.
People were showing me which direction he was in. The water was so dirty you couldn’t see through it. I swam around on the bottom. Finally I found him…
He was pretty lifeless, but you could see he was still alive. 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.”
Rick said he didn’t seek attention when people crowded around him as soon as Rick left the cage. He just couldn’t bear to watch an innocent creature go by in front of his eyes!