Authors: Natasha Triplett
(NEW YORK) -- A Texas graduate student was standing in a restricted area for which he did not have clearance when he was pulled under an electrified fence and mauled by two chimpanzees at a South Africa chimp sanctuary, officials said today.
The attack on Andrew Oberle, 26, who was leading a tour, was likely prompted by chimpanzees wanting to mark their territory, said Eugene Cussons, director at the Jane Goodall Institute Chimpanzee Eden near Johannesburg, where Oberle had been working for the summer.
During the tour on Thursday, Oberle left the group and crossed one of two fences separating him from the animals into a "no go zone," Cussons said.
When Oberle neared the second fence, which was electrified, two alpha male chimpanzees named Nikki and Amadeus reached underneath and pulled him by his feet into their enclosure.
Oberle was attacked by the animals and dragged half a mile before armed guards and staff members were able to enter the enclosure and rescue him. It took an estimated 30 minutes from the time of the attack to when Oberle was carried to an ambulance, officials said.
First responder Lloyd Krause said when he found Oberle, the University of Texas student was stripped down and the only way he knew he was alive was that his chest was moving.
"The chimps were still out there. ... He was curled up in a little ball," Krause told ABC News.
Oberle, who is studying anthropology at the University of Texas at San Antonio, suffered huge cuts to his head and face. The mauling left his skull and facial bones exposed.
Oberle underwent six hours of surgery today. Doctors cleaned and stitched all of his wounds. Oberle is in stable condition and induced sedation, doctors said.
The vicious attack left Oberle with injures over his entire body. His right upper arm is broken, while his lower right arm muscle and ligaments are torn and exposed to the bone. Oberle's left arm was mauled and he lost fingers on both hands.
Oberle's friends in Texas are raising funds for his care, hoping he can one day get back to doing what he loves.
"He's not going to quit," said friend Anthony Reimherr. "He never gives up."
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio