Woman’s emotional reunion with the chimpanzees she helped save

2 min read

documentary recording the moment a woman was reunited with the chimpanzees she helped rescue is back the public eye this week.

Linda Koebner was a 23-year-old graduate student when she helped a group of lab chimps take their first steps into sunshine and fresh air back in 1974.

The animals had been used in research to develop treatments for hepatitis, and were no longer needed. After six years in the confines of a laboratory, it was not known how they’d cope on the outside.

“They were terrified to get out of the security of their transport cage,” says Ms Koebner, in “The Wisdom of the Wild,” a 1999 film made by Argo Films for PBS. “Whether it was afraid to step on the grass, they hadn’t been on anything but hard bars for years, or just the feel of the wind and the sun. They just huddled in the doorways and wouldn’t come out.”

Ms Koebner would spend four years with them, helping them learn to be wild – but eventually moved on. In 2004 she founded Chimp Haven, a home up to 300 chimpanzees that have been retired from laboratory research or the entertainment industry.

This excerpt from the Wisdom of the Wild, brought to our attention by The Dodo, shows the emotional moment Ms Koebner returns to visit the animals 18 years after she’s last seen them.

She approaches slowly and cautiously, but as she gets closer one of the animals, named Swing, reaches out a welcoming arm, grinning wildly, before giving Koebner a huge hug – which another chimp, Doll, soon joins in with, bringing Koebner to tears of joy.

“Chimpanzees have provided us so much in this world,” she tells the film’s makers.

“So much knowledge about ourselves, about our social lives, about our dispositions, because they are so much like us as beings. These chimpanzees have taught me about resilience.

“All of these have gone through such tremendous adversity, and yet they’re forgiving, and they’re whole again.”

• Mysterious chimpanzee behaviour could prove they believe in God, according to scientists

by Adam Boult

9 JUNE 2016 • 10:16AM

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