Who is Dr. Martin Surbeck? Ashley Judd injured during Congo conservation work

Olivia Olphin February 17, 2021
Photo credit should read JOHANNES EISELE/AFP via Getty Images

United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and former actress Ashley Judd has suffered a horrendous leg injury while participating in bonobo conservation work in the Republic of Congo. We take a closer look at exactly what happened and introduce you to Dr. Martin Surbeck who runs the bonobo research site.

What happened to Ashley Judd?

During a trip to the Republic of Congo for bonobo conservation work with the research site at Kokolopori, Ashley Judd suffered a horrific accident where she nearly lost her leg.

Judd shattered her leg in four places after tripping over a fallen tree. She is still in intensive care in a hospital in South Africa.

As the actress was stranded in a remote part of the rainforest, it took nearly 55 hours to get her to hospital for surgery.

She initially had to lie for five hours on the forest floor, while in intense pain, waiting for a rescue team to arrive.

In the below Instagram post, she thanks the people who helped save her life. Dieumerci put his leg under her broken leg for five hours; Papa Jean found her in the rainforest and adjusted her broken bones; six men carried her in a hammock for three hours, and Didier and Maradona drove her on a motorbike for six hours.

Dr Martin Surbeck is thought to be one of the men who arrived to help Ashley Judd and transport her from the rainforest. Additionally Dr Surbeck and Ashley Judd had worked together at the bonobo research site at Kokolopori.

Who is Dr Martin Surbeck? Ashley Judd worked with him at Kokolopori

Martin Surbeck has been an assistant professor at the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University since 2019.

He initially studied the basics of Biology and Zoology at the University of Zurich, as well as studying at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. Surbeck also earned his PhD from the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology in 2011.

Dr Martin Surbeck’s work examines competition and cooperation between groups such as bonobos and chimpanzees, with a special interest in the social system of bonobos.

Dr Surbeck runs the bonobo research site at Kokolopori with the Bonobo Conservation Initiative.

He has said about his work studying Bonobos:

“These animals are fascinating to watch, and they’re interesting because we don’t know that much about them…So I spent a year in the Congo, habituating bonobos to humans.”

It seems that Dr Martin Surbeck was a great help to Ashley Judd in her time of need.

Olivia Olphin is an English Literature graduate and a film and literature fanatic. She has many years of reviewing experience, recently working as accredited press for the London Film Festival. She has also written widely about culture and sex education, as well as LGBTQ+ and women's issues.