An American student is in critical condition after undergoing two operations after chimpanzees tore at his body in front of tourists at a South African animal sanctuary,a hospital spokeswoman told CNN on Tuesday.Andrew Oberle, a primatology student from the University of Texas at San Antonio, was being treated at a Johannesburg hospital after two chimps attacked him Thursday, spokeswoman Robyn Baard said.
"He went though a 6-hour procedure of which doctors cleaned out his wounds and now it's a case of wait and see, and just to keep him sedated and comfortable for now," she said.
Oberle had been at the Jane Goodall Institute's Chimp Eden since May, according to Eugene Cussons, the facility's managing director. Oberle was at the sanctuary, near Nelspruit, South Africa, for the second time after training and volunteering there in 2010. His training included an explanation about "no-go" areas, spaces for animals where people are not supposed to go. Witnesses to the attack said that Oberle went into a no-go area because he seemed to want to remove a stone close to one of the animals that could have been picked up and thrown around, Cussons told CNN.
Oberle crossed one barrier and approached a second one, which is a main fence with 24 strands of electrical wiring, Cussons said. Two male chimps grabbed Oberle and tried to drag him under the fence, but were not able to yank him into their enclosure. Cussons said he estimates the attack lasted 15 minutes. At some point, people tried to stop the chimps, and Cussons shot two rounds in the air to see if that might get them to retreat, he said. One of the chimps then charged at Cussons, he said. Cussons shot that chimp in the abdomen, he told CNN, and it seemed to shriek as a kind of signal to other chimps that there was a more powerful threat present. The chimps then backed off, he said.
Oberle was rescued and transported for medical care.