Jane Goodall has had a long and storied career, studying and working with primates for six decades. She is best known for her work with chimpanzees, and it's largely thanks to her field research that we understand as much as we do about their behavior and intelligence.
Goodall has undoubtedly had many notable experiences in her career, but there was one moment caught on video that highlights her extraordinary connection with these animals.
Wounda was a chimpanzee rescued from the bushmeat trade, and when she was brought to the Jane Goodall Institute's Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo, she was half the weight she should have been and near death. (In fact, that's what "Wounda" means—"close to death.")
But thanks to Dr. Rebeca Atencia and the staff at Tchimpounga, Wounda recovered. After rehabilitation, chimps can't go back and live in the wild, but Tchimpounga has some sanctuary islands set aside for rehabbed chimps to live in the forest, safe from attacks and poachers. Wounda was taken to Tchindzoulou island to live with more than a dozen other chimps that had already been released there.
Goodall herself was not part of Wounda's rehabilitation, but she accompanied the team when it came time to release Wounda. She reassured Wounda with a soft voice and kind words on the way to the island, and the two connected immediately, despite it being the first day they met. And when Wounda was released, her expression of gratitude and affection, not only to Dr. Atencia but to Goodall herself, was a sight to behold.
Watch Wounda's story and witness the hug heard 'round the world:
Wounda's Journey: Jane Goodall releases chimpanzee into forest www.youtube.com
Though we can't read a chimpanzee's mind, of course, it almost feels as if Wounda senses that Goodall is the reason she was saved and being given her freedom. That hug seemed to symbolize the gratitude of an entire species to a woman who dedicated her life to their well-being.
Even for Goodall, who has worked with countless chimps, this moment stood out as remarkable. "It was one of the most moving things to ever happen to me," Goodall told CNN in a follow-up in 2018.
Jane Goodall reflects on hug from rescued chimpanzee www.youtube.com
And the story got even more extraordinary, as Goodall mentioned in the CNN interview. The female chimps released on Tchindzoulou island are given permanent birth control implants to keep the population under control so they have space for other rescued and rehabbed chimps. But with Wounda, the birth control failed. She ended up giving birth to a baby boy, which the Institute appropriately named Hope. You can see the incredible cuteness here:
From Near Death to New Life: Wounda is a JGI Story of Hope www.youtube.com
Goodall, now 86 years old, is still actively advocating for animal rights and welfare as well as environmental conservation, and her lifelong dedication and compassion for these incredible animals is worth celebrating.
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