Jane Goodall at Lion Country Safari, visits Little Mama the chimp


When Dame Jane Goodall returned Wednesday to Lion Country Safari, a dear friend greeted her by making smoochy noises and stroking her white hair.

Little Mama, the Loxahatchee park’s oldest chimpanzee, was, by all accounts, thrilled to see the primatologist she first met in 1972.

Their reunion “was just as cute as you could imagine,” said Terry Wolf, Lion Country’s longtime wildlife director. “Mama focused on her immediately, made eye-to-eye contact with her, and made ‘come closer’ motions with her fingers and kissing sounds with her mouth.

“She just wanted to touch Jane’s hair and face and hands.”

The few Lion Country staff members who witnessed the scene in the chimps’ night house, some of whom were moved to tears, were certain Little Mama remembered Goodall.

Wolf hedged his bets: “I know Little Mama is very observant about people. Whether she recognizes Jane, I couldn’t say. She doesn’t share all her secrets with me.”

Wolf has known Little Mama since 1970. A diminuitive-for-a-chimp 90 pounds, she turned 77 on Valentine’s Day, making her among the oldest chimps in captivity in the United States, according to the Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan, a program administered by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

That makes her a contemporary of Goodall, who celebrates her 81st birthday on April 3, 2015.

Read the 2012 profile: “The little chimp with the big heart: They call her Little Mama”

Since Goodall’s first visit to Lion Country in 1972, she’s toured the park roughly 20 times. On Wednesday, she admired the park’s giraffe herd and saw the new baby rhino, Blossom, and her mom, Bloom. But Little Mama was the chief reason for a special house call squeezed into a very busy schedule.

Still the leading spokesperson for the dire plight of chimpanzees, Goodall is constantly on-the-go as chief ambassador of the Jane Goodall Institute.

On Thursday morning, she spoke to students and parents at Palm Beach Day Academy about her love of animals as a child (brought to the printed page by Mutts’ Patrick McDonnell in this children’s book), the intelligence of all animals and how we need to work together to protect the planet, said Linda Lane Soper, whose two children attend the school.

Goodall’s speech, even her presence, was intensely moving, said Soper, a West Palm Beach resident.

“She has this quiet, humbling way about her that is something unlike any human I have ever met. And this must be why she can communicate so well with our primate cousins.”

She’s equally good with people, Wolf said.

“She speaks to everyone at the same level, whether they’re a doctor of veterinary medicine or they’re a keeper who’s only been working here a week.”

And she’s particularly inspiring to women, Wolf said. “She’s not a movie star, she’s not a fashion model, she’s not a Kardashian. She’s just plain Jane, down to earth, and she’ll fight to the death for the chimps. What’s not to love?”

After almost half an hour with Little Mama, Goodall said goodbye and walked away from the chimp’s cage.

Mama cried for her friend to retrace her steps, Wolf said. “She knows how to pull those strings.

“Jane came right back.”

*****

Terry Wolf on Little Mama: “She is little in every way. But her resilience, and the friendship she shows to the other chimps, has been inspiring.”

 


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Community

'Guardians of the Galaxy' director James Gunn fired over offensive tweets
'Guardians of the Galaxy' director James Gunn fired over offensive tweets

The director of the successful “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies, James Gunn, has been fired from the franchise’s third installment over offensive tweets about pedophilia and rape. >> Read more trending news  The shocking tweets, which had been taken down, aren’t new and Gunn had apologized for them in the past...
5 things every parent should know about immunization
5 things every parent should know about immunization

Within the first few months of your child's life, your pediatrician will likely start talking to you about immunizations. Even if your house is stocked with hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap, it's important to know what options are out there to keep your kid safe from diseases that could have harmful consequences. TheWorld Health Organization defines...
Live Music: JM and The Sweets’ differences shine on stage
Live Music: JM and The Sweets’ differences shine on stage

At first glance, the members of JM and The Sweets seem like an eclectic mix of cultural backgrounds, fashions, and musical preferences. You expect to hear a sound that might be Caribbean, reggae or rock. Then Josh Miles, 25, a Haitian-American from Dallas, Texas starts to croon with his deep, mature voice. A bluesy, soulful sound drips from the...
Summer 2018: 8 must-try water activities in Palm Beach County
Summer 2018: 8 must-try water activities in Palm Beach County

It’s freaking hot outside, which means there’s no reason to skip trying a new water activity to keep yourself cool. Once you’ve picked an activity you want to do from this list, make sure to find the best “Day Trip” itinerary from my long list of local adventures. If you decide to stay in West Palm, I have a...
Clematis Street’s The Alchemist closes, citing changing area, homeless problem
Clematis Street’s The Alchemist closes, citing changing area, homeless problem

The Alchemist has sold its last bucket of bacon. The Clematis Street gastropub, popular for its creative cocktail menu and quirky menu items like the aforementioned literal metal pails of crispy pork, closed for good Sunday night. Craig Steel, general manager and partner in the Daiza Restaurant Group, said that until that evening, the organization...
More Stories