An American student is in critical condition afterÂ undergoing two operationsÂ after chimpanzees tore apartÂ his body in front of tourists at a South African animal sanctuary, a hospital spokeswoman told CNN on Tuesday.
Andrew Oberle,Â a primatologyÂ student from University of Texas at San Antonio,Â was being treated at a Johannesburg hospital after two chimps attacked him Thursday, spokeswoman Robyn Baard said.
OberleÂ had been at the Jane Goodall Institute's Chimp EdenÂ since May, according to Eugene Cussons, theÂ facility's managing director. Oberle was at theÂ sanctuary, near Nelspruit, South Africa, for the second time after training and volunteering there in 2010. Â His training includedÂ an explanationÂ about "no-go" areas - spacesÂ 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 wantÂ to remove a stone close to one of theÂ 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 fenceÂ with 24 strands of electrical wiring, Cussons said.Â 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 itÂ seemed to shriek as a kind of signal to other chimpsÂ that there was a more powerful threat present. The chimps then backed off, he said.
Oberle was rescued and transported for medical care.
None of the 13Â tourists - most of them from local areas -Â were harmed, officials said.
TheÂ chimp that was shot had an operation at the JohannesburgÂ zoo to repair damage to his small and large intestines.
Hospital spokeswoman Baard declined to discuss the nature of Oberle's wounds. She said the student'sÂ parents had requested privacy, adding that they are "quite traumatized."
The sanctuary, which is featured in the Animal Planet program "Escape to Chimp Eden," remains closed and its staff is receiving counseling, executive director David Oosthuizen said.
There are no plans right now to euthanize the chimps involved in the attack, said Dries Pienaar, who is leading the investigation into the incident. HeÂ works for a parks agency that makes sure zoos, sanctuaries and breeding projects comply with the law.Â Pienaar told CNN that hisÂ preliminary findings are that human error is to blame, but he cautioned that his investigation is not complete and that he wants to interview Oberle. He hasn't spoken to all of the tourists yet, either.
Chimp Eden was established as a home for rescued chimpanzees. Many of the primates have suffered "horrible injuries and abuse from humans," according to the sanctuary.
Dave Salmoni, an expert inÂ large predators for the television channel Animal Planet, said abused and captive chimpanzees can be particularly dangerous, likening the chimps to troubled prison inmates.
"Now this is a very nice prison, but it's a prison nonetheless," he said Monday. "And that's why you can see a lot of acting out behavior, and in some cases, with chimpanzees, they act out just because they can."
OberleÂ was passionate aboutÂ studying chimpanzees,Â his friendÂ Anthony Reimherr told CNN affiliate KXAN-TV. He said it was "intriguing" to listen toÂ Oberle when he spokeÂ about the animals.
"It's just something that he loved to do, and I think it's something that he'll always continue to do," Reimherr said.FULL STORY