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This story originally appeared at American Web Media.

Rick Swope was visiting the Detroit Zoo with his family when something rather unexpected happen. As he watched a pair of chimpanzees playing in their exhibit, Swope watched as one of the animals lost his balance and tumbled into the water.

Though the entire incident was caught on camera, there weren’t any nearby zookeepers available to help. Nor did the other chimpanzees know what to do.

The urgency of the moment led Swope to discard the zoo’s cardinal rule and dive into the enclosure to save the flailing chimp.

“It was the most pitiful thing I ever saw,” Swope later told the Chicago Tribune. “This chimp had his hands up, and his head was sticking out of the water. He was looking at the crowd. It was like he wanted someone to rescue him.”

The size of the enclosure meant that Swopes initially had trouble finding the floundering primate, which – like all chimpanzees — was unable to swim. Fortunately, the gathering crowd guided him towards the drowning animal.

“People were showing me which direction he was in. The water was so dirty you couldn’t see through it. I swam around on the bottom. Finally, I found him,” he said. “He was pretty lifeless, but you could see he was still alive. He was looking at me. I think he knew what was going on… The monkey never made any attempt to do anything to me.”

But once Swopes rescued the chimp, it wasn’t immediately clear what he should do next. “I was thinking, what do you do now?” he told the Chicago Tribune. “Do you do mouth-to-mouth on a monkey? I remember thinking he might bite me if I did that.”

“Then I looked up and saw there was another one coming down the hill with his teeth bared. I didn’t know if he was going after the other monkey or after me, but I got the hell out of there,” he recalled.

Thankfully the man escaped the chimpanzee’s enclosure unharmed and received a huge round of applause back on the human side of the fence. The crowd was naturally elated when they realized this brave passerby had saved an animal’s life. What would you do in this situation?

watch Rick’s amazing rescue in the video below!

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