When people visit the zoo, they know full well to stay within their designated area and not disturb the wildlife. Animals both in the wild and in their enclosure are territorial. Any disturbance in their area can quickly turn into a tragedy.
Rick Swope was not thinking about the consequences of jumping into a chimpanzee exhibit at the Detroit Zoo in Michigan in the summer of 1990. All he wanted to do was save Jo-Jo, a male chimp who fell into a moat after trying to escape a fight with another chimp.
Chimpanzees cannot swim, so time was of the essence. Swope ignored zookeepers warnings and climbed a wall, swam into murky, five-feet deep water to get to Jo-Jo and pull him to dry land. The 33-year-old man was in additional danger when an agitated and larger chimp was coming down the hill for him.
Swope’s daring rescue mission may have been reckless and irresponsible but the man said he had to do something to help Jo-Jo. “He was looking at me. I think he knew what was going on,” says Swope.