Chimps injure anthropology student at Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Eden

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2012:

Chimps injure anthropology student at Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Eden

JOHANNESBURG–U.S. anthropology student Andrew Oberle, 26, lost an ear, several fingers and toes and a testicle on June 28, 2012 after entering a restricted enclosure at Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Eden, apparently to pick up a rock that he believed two chimps named Nikki and Amadeus might hurl at a group of about a dozen visitors. Placed in a medically induced coma due to blood loss, Oberle underwent six hours of surgery five days after the attack.

Eugene Cussons, manager of Chimpanzee Eden and a host of the Animal Planet program Escape to Chimp Eden, told media that Oberle went behind the first of two security fences, which he was not trained to do, and that the chimps then reached under the second fence to grab his foot. The ensuing struggle damaged the fence, enabling the two chimps to escape and drag Oberle about 100 feet.

Responding to an emergency call, Cussons and employee Phillip Cronje drove to the scene. Cussons left the car and fired two warning shots, but returned to the car when Nikki charged. When Nikki began trying to smash the windshield, Cussons shot him in the abdomen, then ran after him, pointing the gun at him, to ensure his retreat.

Cussons and Cronje stabilized Oberle’s condition until paramedics arrived. Nikki was later taken to the Johannesburg Zoo for treatment. Amadeus was kept in a locked enclosure with members of his family.

Chimpanzee Eden “currently keeps 33 chimps, which do not naturally occur in South Africa, in three large camps,” wrote Johannes Myburgh of Agence France-Presse. “Seven were in the third camp for worst abused chimpanzees, where the attack happened.

Amadeus was rescued from Angola when he was three. His parents were killed in the bush meat trade. Nikki came all the way from Liberia on the other side of the continent when he was four. He had been kept as a pet.”

Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency conservation official Dries Pienaar told media that he found no negligence by Chimpanzee Eden, and said that Nikki and Amadeus had only defended their territory.

Oberle, a master’s degree candidate at the University of Texas at San Antonio, was described as “a wonderful volunteer” by the San Antonio sanctuary Primarily Primates. He was reportedly on his second extended visit to Chimpanzee Eden. He had also done primate research at the St. Louis Zoo.

Oberle was attacked only two days after an adult male chimp killed a three-month-old baby chimp in front of her mother and visitors at the Los Angeles Zoo. The zoo claimed in a prepared statement that the baby chimpanzee had been gradually introduced to the other chimps in the habitat without any indications of problems, but Victoria Pipkin-Lane, executive director of the Los Angeles County Quality and Productivity Commission, wrote to Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa that she saw a fight between two chimps three days earlier, one of whom appeared to be protecting the infant and her mother.

Goodall Institute facilites have been involved in previous chimp attacks. Outside magazine writer Elizabeth Royte and Gombe Stream National Park director of chimp research Shadrack Kamenya, writing for Pan Africa News, in late 2002 described a May 2002 incident in which a chimp named Frodo accosted the wife and 16-year-old niece of Gombe park attendant Moshi Sadique. The niece was carrying Sadique’s 14-month-old daughter. Frodo tore the child away, beat her to death against a tree, disemboweled her, and was eating her brain by the time guards arrived. Similar incidents reportedly occurred at Gombe in 1984, 1987, and in the 1950s.

In 2003 two Goodall Institute chimps escaped from quarantine at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda. One of them “bit off the fingers and toes of his keeper,” according to Gerald Tenywa of the New Vision newspaper in Kampala. At large for 12 days, the chimps were eventually shot by a posse of Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers, police, and private security guards.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.