Sunday, June 14, 2009

Story of 'Old Man'

On the 5th June, I attended the Green Generation Concert where they had Dr. Jane Goodall as the keynote speaker. Dr Jane Goodall is a renowned primatologist who spent 45 years studying chimpanzees and founded Jane Goodall Institute which focuses on making positive change for communities, animals and the environment. In her speech, she shared with us on a touching story regarding a chimpanzee named 'Old Man'.

Old Man was not really old; he just looked old. The cause may be due to his earlier life. When he was two years old, his mother was killed and he was captured by poachers. He was then shipped to North America where he spent the next 10 years of his life in a biomedical research lab as a test subject. When he was 12 years old, he was retired to a zoo which is on a man-made island in Florida. He was placed there with another 3 females who had also been abused by humans.

A young man named Marc Cusano was employed by the zoo. One of his jobs was to look after these chimps, and he was told, "Don't go near them. They hate people. They'll kill you." For a while, Marc would throw the food up onto the banks from the shores.

But as he watched them, he became more and more fascinated. He saw how the group would hug and kiss each other. He saw how gentle and loving Old Man was with his little infant. Marc thought, "How can I look after these wonderful animals if I don't have some kind of good relationship with them? " So he began going closer and closer. Finally one day, Old Man took some food from Marc's hand.

As time went by, Marc gained confidence and stepped onto the shore of the island. One day he actually groomed Old Man and eventually was able to play with him. The females were more standoffish, but they made no fuss when Marc walked onto the island.

Things went well for about a year after his first contact with Old Man. However, one day, Marc slipped, fell on his face, and startled the infant. The infant screamed, and the infant's mother raced to defend her child. She leapt onto Marc and bit deeply into his neck. The other two females also jumped on him, in support of their friend. One bit his wrist, one bit his leg. Then Marc saw Old Man thundering towards him with great ferocity. Marc thought that he was going to die this time. Old Man must have misunderstood that he wanted to hurt his child too.

Instead, Old Man physically pulled each of those females off Marc. While Marc painfully dragged himself to the boat for safety, Old Man kept the screaming, keeping the highly aroused females at bay. After he came out of the hospital, he told me that: "You know, Jane, there's absolutely no question that Old Man saved my life."

This story makes me teared and wondered... If a chimpanzee which has been abused by us for 10 years can reach out across the species barrier to help a human friend in time of need, then surely we humans with our deeper capacity for understanding and compassion can do better. Surely, we can reach out to help chimpanzees and other creatures with whom we share the planet in their desperate time of need. Surely, we can forgive and help our fellow humans when they are in trouble. Surely, we can make this world a better place.


  1. very touching true story, and am glad that old man and the other abused female chimps are leading a good life now, for they really deserve it. they are lucky too, i mean most of the lab animals are being destroyed in the end...

    read jane goodall's books in the 90s, do read up on them.

  2. Yeah, it brought tears to my eyes when I heard the story. It made me realize that animals reflect directly the amount of love you are giving them. I hope that we humans and animals can co-exist as friends rather than a part of food chain ^_^. Thanks for the recommendation. I will read up on them for sure.

  3. i read about ur entry on vegetarianism on VSS enewsletter, visited ur blog, found out that u do care for the animals. very glad to know that, as youngsters nowadays care really less, especially towards animals.

    i'm a free thinker, and i refuse to eat meat or rather animals for the same reasons. i have saved ur email add in my add book, and will be forwarding u emails on animal welfare issues, hope that u don't mind. :)

  4. Sure! I won't mind at all. Actually, I be glad to receive them ^_^. Please send them to my email

    I believe that youngsters cared less because of the limited exposure they get towards such information. Everyday, we are bombarded with negative stuffs such as politics, killings and more ways of consumerism from the media. They are not told about the proper channel to go to if they wish to do anything for Earth or humankind.

    It is difficult for young people and kids who grew up in such environment not to react the way they do now. They only know what the parents and the media told them to. They emulate the actions of adults.

    Frankly speaking I was living a life of aloof towards whats happening on Earth for a long time before I was exposed to such information and decided to take actions.

    I hope that we can bring such information to more children and youngsters so that they can make a conscious choice. ^_^

    Thanks again for keeping me in the loop.

  5. media and schools talk a lot about global warming, saving environment, 3Rs, Mother Earth is ill, etc, it's a matter of choice, whether people are willing to make an effort to change their lifestyle.

    anyway, i'm tin ling, if u receive emails from, they are from me.

    keep up the good works, live consciously! :)