Professor Jan van Hooff and Mama knew each other since 1972.

Stacey Leasca
October 19, 2017

At the end of her life, all Mama — a 59-year-old, terminally ill chimpanzee — wanted to do was say goodbye.

As the matriarch of the chimpanzees at the Royal Burgers Zoo in the Netherlands, Mama was well-loved throughout her life, including by her caretakers.

But at the end of Mama’s road, she started to refuse food and water — that is, until one of her very special caretakers, Professor Jan van Hooff, came to visit.

According to the Daily Mail, van Hooff and Mama have known one another since 1972. It was then that van Hooff helped co-found Mama’s chimp colony in the Royal Burgers Zoo, which also happened to be the first colony raised in captivity, according to the Independent. And in the video showing the pair’s interaction, it is abundantly clear from her reaction at spotting the professor that they share a special bond.

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As the video shows, the moment van Hooff walks into the room and begins to softly pet Mama, the tired chimpanzee springs back to life. A smile stretches across her face as she returns his strokes with her own and pulls the professor in for one last hug.

The interaction would sadly be the last between the pair, as according to the video’s description, Mama passed away just one week after the professor’s visit.

“Her reaction was extremely emotional and heart-breaking,” the zoo wrote in the video’s description, which has garnered more than 5 million views since it was first uploaded in 2016. “Mama played an important social role in the colony.”

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Following her death, Frans de Waal, a behavioral scientists who worked with Mama, told the Independent, "She had an exceptionally strong and dominant personality, so that no man who wanted to come to power could do so around her. She also brought consolation when there were tensions and mediated conflicts.”

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

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