A Heartwarming Reunion: Chimpanzees Embrace the Woman Who Rescued Them a Quarter Century Ago

During her recent visit, Linda Koebner, an animal behaviorist who played a vital role in rescuing a group of chimpanzees from a research laboratory 25 years ago, was met with open arms and warm hearts.

Her emotional reunion with these chimps was a testament to their deep bond, one that time has not eroded.

Watch the video at the end.


Koebner founded Chimp Haven, a non-profit sanctuary for chimpanzees in Louisiana. The monastery was built in 1995 to provide a safe haven for these sentient beings previously subjected to research testing.

A quarter-century ago, she spent four years in southern Florida guiding these chimps towards a more natural life after they were freed from a hepatitis research lab.

Loving reception: This is the moment Linda Koebner was reunited with one of the chimps she helped ease back into the wild after they lived in a test lab for six years. Source: The Wisdom of the Wild

Her recent return to the sanctuary was captured on film and included in the PBS documentary, The Wisdom of the Wild. Koebner, who was a student when she started this endeavor, had not visited the sanctuary for 20 years.


Upon her return, she was greeted with joyful smiles and heartfelt hugs from the chimps, a few of whom were still residents of the sanctuary.

The touching moment of reunion occurred as Koebner crossed a small body of water to reach the chimps’ enclosure.

All smiles: The chimp, named Swing, cracks a huge smile as she suddenly recognizes Koebner. Source: The Wisdom of the Wild

She was welcomed by a chimp named Swing, who stretched out a hand in greeting. Another chimp, Doll, also ran over to express her joy. Overwhelmed with emotion, Koebner couldn’t hold back her tears as she embraced the chimps she had once nurtured.


In the documentary, Koebner reflects on the profound impact the chimps have had on her life and the world.

She credits them for teaching her resilience and helping humanity understand more about its social behavior, emotions, and nature, given the striking genetic similarity humans share with chimps.

Embrace: The two lovingly hug after seeing each other for decades as Koebner is reduced to tears. Source: The Wisdom of the Wild

Koebner remembers the challenges the chimps faced when they were released from their cages after six years of captivity.


Transitioning to the outdoor environment was difficult for them, as they were scared to step on grass or feel the wind and the sun. However, with time and patience, they overcame their fears.

Testing on chimpanzees ceased in the US a year ago following their classification as endangered.

Koebner, who founded the non-profit chimpanzee sanctuary Chimp Haven in Louisiana, spent four years teaching the chimps how to be wild in southern Florida after they were released from a hepatitis research lab. Source: The Wisdom of the Wild
‘Do you remember me?’: The chimps live in a special enclosure in southern Florida, and Koebner went to visit. Source: The Wisdom of the Wild
‘You look good’: Koebner returned to the enclosure and was greeted with open arms by the chimps. Source: The Wisdom of the Wild

Today, Koebner’s Chimp Haven continues to provide a refuge for these intelligent, resilient creatures, symbolizing a hopeful journey from exploitation to empathy.

Flashback: The chimps were released in 1974, and Koebner – then a grad student – was part of a team charged with helping them learn to live in the wild. Source: The Wisdom of the Wild
Koebner recalls in the documentary how the chimps struggled to even get out of their transport cages. Source: The Wisdom of the Wild
‘Whether it was afraid to step on the grass, they hadn’t been on anything but hard bars for years,’ Koebner said. Source: The Wisdom of the Wild
Back for a visit: Koebner returned to the enclosure from the sanctuary that she runs in Louisiana. Source: The Wisdom of the Wild
‘Chimpanzees have provided us so much in this world,’ Linda Koebner says in the film. Source: The Wisdom of the Wild

Watch the video below:

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