The Texas grad student mauled from head to toe and dragged for a half-mile by chimpanzees at a South African reserve was standing in a restricted area when he was brutally attacked, according to reports Sunday.
It was likely that Andrew Oberle's very presence triggered two large male chimps to go after him during the frightening scene Thursday, sanctuary director Eugene Cussons said during a news conference.
The attack occured at the Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Eden.
The 26 year old Oberle, an anthropology student at the University of Texas, was recovering after six hours of surgery Sunday. He had apparently crossed one of two fences while he was giving a lecture, and wasn’t authorized to be in the restricted area, according to reports.
Witnesses said the student had picked up a rock, presumably to keep the chimps from using it as a projectile. That’s when one of them grabbed his foot and pulled him under a second, electrified fence into their enclosure, msnbc.com reported.
Cussons described the territory Oberle was in as a “no go zone.”
It was the first time he was asked to give a lecture to visitors. The sanctuary, near Johannesburg, was immediately put on lockdown during the attack.
Oberle reportedly lost part of an ear and fingers and had broken bones and torn ligaments. He was rescued and taken to a hospital in critical condition.
In a statement, Mediclinic said the victim was stable enough Sunday for doctors to bring him into the operating room to clean and stitch his bites and attend to fractures and other injuries.
Oberle, of St. Louis, remains in intensive care, but is no longer in critical condition. “The doctors are satisfied at the moment ... with the patient’s condition,” said hospital manager Carmen Savva.
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