Andrew Oberle was attacked by chimps he was studying in South Africa. Since then, Oberle has undergone 26 operations, his fiancé gave birth to his daughter, and this year he opened the Oberle Institute that will help patients recover from trauma. Picture: AP
Johannesburg - Five years ago Andrew Oberle lay in a medically induced coma after losing an ear, nose, most of fingers and feet. His chances of recovery then were slim.

Two years later, Oberle walked into a packed baseball stadium and threw a mean pitch.

What he threw was the first ceremonial pitch in a major league baseball game in his home town of St Louis in the US. It was a long-time dream for him and a symbol of how far he had come.

For weeks he had practised that pitch, and on that night he would tell the media that he simply took a deep breath, and “let ‘er rip”.

He later jokingly described the ball he pitched as the “no-finger fast ball”.

Since that pitch, Oberle’s recovery has continued. Three months ago his fiancé gave birth to his daughter, and this year he opened the Oberle Institute that will help patients recover from trauma.

Read: Chimps face euthanasia after attack

Chimps behaving badly

Back in 2012, before the media attention and the painful recovery, Oberle was a tour guide at the Jane Goodall Institute, Chimpanzee Eden, near Nelspruit. It was here where he was savagely attacked by two male chimps.

At the time, Oberle was working at the sanctuary as part of his graduate programme at the University of Texas for his degrees in anthropology and primatology.

A later report compiled by a private investigator hired by the sanctuary described what happened that day on June 28, 2012.

What he found was that Oberle had climbed over a 1.2m-high safety fence. He had placed his foot on a rock next to the electric fence, close to where two chimps named Nikki and Amadeus stood.

Suddenly, the two grabbed his foot and pulled him under the fence, tripping the electric current.

Staff at the sanctuary attempted to scare off the two chimps by firing several warning shots in the air.

Eventually the attack ended when Nikki was shot through the windscreen of a vehicle, allowing staff and paramedics to get to Oberle.

What they found shocked them. Oberle had serious injuries across his body.

Later experts suggested that Andrew was attacked because the chimps saw him as being in their territory, and as a threat.

Also, they pointed out that both Nikki and Amadeus were bush-meat orphans and had experienced traumatic lives before arriving at the sanctuary.

Nikki had arrived at the sanctuary wearing a luxury watch and the clothes of a little boy. He had been raised as a human, which had negatively affected him.

Staff at the sanctuary would later rush Nikki to Johannesburg where he would receive emergency surgery to remove the bullet.

Oberle would tell the St Louis Post-Dispatch that all he remembered of the attack were the chimps on him - before waking up three weeks later in hospital.

Over the next couple of years, Oberle would have 26 operations, four of these were simply to reconstruct his nose. He now also has a bionic right hand and two prosthetic feet.

Oberle would also tell the St Louis Post-Dispatch that he doesn’t blame Nikki and Amadeus for attacking him.

“They’re wild animals. You can’t know what’s going to happen,” he is reported to have said.

Oberle’s Institute has a team of counsellors, surgeons, and therapists that will help to provide a holistic treatment for trauma patients.

They plan to see their first patient in February.

Two years after the attack, Nikki and Amadeus struck again.

In this incident Nikki charged the electric fence while staff were conducting an inspection.

He managed to climb over two fences and attack a staff member. Amadeus also tried to climb over the fence but was held back by the electric current.

The staff member suffered minor injuries and the two chimps were forced back into their enclosures. After his latest incident, it was decided that the two chimps would be euthanised.

But this decision was later overturned.

However, a year later Nikki had to be put to sleep after it was discovered that he had cancer. Amadeus is still at the sanctuary.

Saturday Star