Wounded gorilla teaches thief a lesson in jungle law

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The Independent Online
In the crime wave engulfing South Africa nothing is sacred and, yesterday, "the gorilla got it" in a shoot-out at Johannesburg Zoo.

In a city where car hijacks and armed robbery have become a daily fact of life, even Max, a 190kg primate, cannot take his security for granted. The gorilla was chilling out with his girlfriend Lisa yesterday morning when an armed robber leapt into their zoo enclosure.

The intruder was hotly pursued by four pistol-toting police officers who had chased him from a luxury home in the wealthy suburb of Saxonwold, adjacent to the zoo, after responding to a reported break-in.

The hapless criminal crossed a safety moat - and met with Max - in a last desperate attempt to evade arrest. But the second trespass of the day was the more ill-advised.

In a first that delighted an army of human crime-victims, the tables turned: it was the robber, not the householder, who was terrified. Max was so incensed at the man's rude appearance on his patch that he immediately attacked him. In the fracas that followed the robber shot Max in the face but, despite his wounds, the furious gorilla just kept on coming.

According to Mark Reynolds, a police inspector, the robber was only saved by the "heroic actions" of the officers, two of whom were mauled by the gorilla. Max, eventually subdued by tranquilliser darts, underwent surgery to remove bullets from his jaw. He was given a clean bill of health last night and returned home to Lisa. The robber, shot by officers in the thigh, was in hospital, and two policemen were being treated for gorilla bites to their arms and buttocks.

"Max was probably trying to protect Lisa," explained Jaqui Thompson, spokesman for the zoo. Ms Thompson was as appalled as any victim's friend could be. "It's just terrible," she said of Max's injuries. "Our reaction is shock, disbelief, horror, anger."