Little Chimp Has Best Reaction To Seeing Man Who Saved Him

"When people ask if Manno remembered me ... I show them this video."

One man's determination to make life better for a little chimpanzee named Manno won't soon be forgotten — and the proof is in a few seconds of video that show their heartfelt reunion.

But the whole story stretches over several years

Chimp saved from zoo in war zone
Daina Liepa

It all started in 2014, when Spencer Sekyer traveled from Canada to Africa and the Middle East to do volunteer work.

When he reached northern Iraq, he happened to come across a zoo. Inside a sad little cage was the individual who would impact the next several years of Sekyer's life. 

Cage where zoo chimp lived in Iraq before rescue
Spencer Sekyer

When Manno wasn't locked up in that ramshackle cage, he was dressed up and fed sweets which made him sick to his stomach by people who wanted to take pictures with him. He was nothing but a prop to them — but Sekyer knew that Manno deserved the freedom to lead a real life. 

That's when Sekyer learned more about Manno's history and the sad truths of global wildlife trafficking, one of the largest criminal networks. Manno had been brought to the private zoo after being stolen from the wild in Africa. The zoo had bought him for $15,000. 

Spencer Sekyer

When Sekyer returned to Alberta, Canada, he started the difficult work of trying to, from a distance, rescue the young chimp from what was quickly becoming a war zone — ISIS was closing in on the territory. But Sekyer had made Manno a promise and he intended to keep it. 

​​​​Sekyer enlisted the help of renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, with whom he happened to chat for a few minutes after an event in Canada. With Goodall's help, Manno started to have a glimmer of hope. Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya got involved and jump-started an effort to bring Manno back to Africa, to Kenya's Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary, a perfect home for a chimp like Manno.

Three years after Sekyer originally met Manno, the little chimp was safely transported to the sanctuary. But when new animals arrive at sanctuaries, they have to go through a quarantine period to make sure they're healthy enough to be introduced to the other rescued animals. 

Thankfully, Sekyer was there when Manno's quarantine period was over to help him transition to his new home.

Man who saved chimp from war zone
Spencer Sekyer

If there was any doubt about whether Manno would remember who this man was or what he did for him, all uncertainties were swiftly erased when the little chimp saw Sekyer standing there with open arms. 

Spencer Sekyer

The true mark of a successful rescue, though, would be whether Manno, after all he'd been through, would still be able to relate and bond with other chimps like him.

Those concerns were also erased. 

Rescued chimps bonding at sanctuary
Daina Liepa

It wasn't easy at first, which was why Sekyer was there to help him.

"He was very scared, having never been around chimpanzees before, so I went into his enclosure to help with his integration," Sekyer told The Dodo.

When Manno and another chimp started to tickle each other, Sekyer knew that it was time for Manno to move on and have the life he'd always deserved. 

Rescued chimp with new friend at sanctuary
Daina Liepa

Sekyer will never forget that last hug that Manno gave him. And thankfully he'll always have that video, to help him remember the genuine connection he formed with this unlikely individual he first found in a cage in Iraq. 

Chimp hugs rescuer
Spencer Sekyer

"When people ask if Manno remembered me or why I rescued him I show them this video," Sekyer said.

You can help support all the rescued chimps at Manno's new home by making a donation to Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary.