Dame Jane Goodall releases rehabilitated chimp to island sanctuary — chimp’s reaction stuns everyone

Dr. Jane Goodall is one of the most famous animal researchers in the world. The iconic primatologist and anthropologist is considered the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, and is known for her decades of research studying the behavior of chimps in Tanzania.

Her extraordinary work has changed the way people view chimpanzees and nature in general. Today marks her 90th birthday, and in honor of the occasion take a look back at one of her most inspiring rescues…

UNSPECIFIED : Jane Goodall, English primatologist, ethologist, and anthropologist, with a chimpanzee in her arms, c. 1995 (Photo by Apic/Getty Images)

The story of Wounda

On June 20th, 2013, Dame Goodall helped release a rehabilitated chimp into the forest — and it led to one of the most special and heartwarming moments of her long career.

The chimp’s name was Wounda, which means “close to death.” Earlier in her life, she had a serious illness, was extremely thin and near death. According to a blog post, she had been rescued from the illegal bushmeat trade and stolen from her family.

But Wounda made significant progress while living at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo, overcoming adversity and illness. She received expert medical care, including the first chimp to chimp blood transfusion in Africa.

Wounda made such a remarkable improvement that they made the decision to move her to the Tchimpounga sanctuary island of Tchindzoulou, a natural sanctuary protected from poachers and wild chimpanzees. It’s a perfect habitat for rehabilitated chimps to replicate their natural way of life when they can’t be released into the wild.

Dr. Goodall accompanied Dr. Rebeca Atencia and the team to release Wounda into her new habitat. “This is a really exciting moment for me,” Goodall says. “Here she is, about to come out to this paradise,” expressing hope that all of their rescued chimps could soon enjoy the same freedom.

They opened Wounda’s transport cage, and the chimp took her first steps into her new home — and then, something incredible happened: she gave Jane Goodall a hug.

It was as if the rescued chimp recognized all the work Goodall’s foundation had done for her and her fellow chimps, and was hugging her to say thank you.

According to a blog post, Dr. Goodall remembered that hug as “one of the most extraordinary moments of her entire life.”

While Goodall got the love, she also credited Dr. Atencia for Wounda’s improbable recovery. “When I saw the photographs of Wounda, as she came to the sanctuary, I didn’t see how she could have possibly have lived. And it was thanks to Rebeca… entirely thanks to Rebeca, that she survived.”

The video shows Wounda exploring her new natural home, as Goodall and Atencia look on in awe. Wounda was the 15th chimpanzee released into the island sanctuary, and many more have followed her.

According to the blog post, Wounda became the alpha female of the two groups of chimps released on the island, and though she was given a birth control implant, she gave birth to a baby named Hope.

“Wounda has quickly adapted to her new forest home, and is forming deep bonds with the group of other rescued chimps.”

Watch the heartwarming moment here:

What a remarkable moment — it shows the remarkable intelligence of chimps and their close bond with humans, which has been the subject of so much of Goodall’s groundbreaking research.

Happy 90th birthday to the great Dame Jane Goodall — please share this story and wish her a happy birthday ❤️