[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Languages
Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 May, 2004, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK
S Africa mourns crime-busting ape
Gorilla
Male gorillas tend to guard their territory fiercely against intruders
South Africa is mourning the death of Max, a 200kg gorilla who shot to fame after braving bullet wounds to overpower an armed robber in his zoo.

The crime-fighting primate died in his sleep, according to Johannesburg zoo.

The gorilla became a national hero in 1997, when he confronted a thief who jumped into his enclosure while being pursued by the police.

Max bit the hapless intruder on the buttocks and kept him pinned to a wall, despite being hit by two bullets.

The burglar was apprehended, but not before two policemen who had chased him into the enclosure also received bite wounds to the buttocks and arm.

Surgeons later removed gunshots from Max's jaw and shoulder; he went on to make a full recovery.

'Dizzy'

Max's cult status was assured in crime-torn South Africa, which seized on him as a heroic mascot in the fight against felony.

The first thing the gorilla did was rip my jeans and bite me on the buttocks
Armed robber Isaac Mofokeng

Cuddly toys were crafted in his image and Johannesburg police honoured the gorilla with a bullet-proof vest - though this turned out to be many sizes too small.

"Max helped raise community awareness about crime... it's sad," said a police spokesman, responding to news of his demise.

A zoo spokeswoman said a post-mortem would be carried out to establish what killed the 33-year-old ape.

The robber, Isaac Mofokeng, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for a string of offences.

At his trial in 1999, Mofokeng described how he thought his "last hour had come".

"The first thing the gorilla did was rip my jeans and bite me on the buttocks," he said.

"Max then dropped me... (He) ran around and became violent, grabbed me by my right leg, swung me around and threw me against the wall and I became dizzy," Mofokeng told the court.




SEE ALSO:
Long arms of the law
25 Feb 99  |  Africa


RELATED BBC LINKS:

RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific