The Crime-Fighting Gorilla Named Max

“The first thing the gorilla did was rip my jeans and bite me on the buttocks.” —Burglar Isaac Mofokeng

In A Nutshell

Max, a gorilla in South Africa, was shot when a burglar accidentally went into his enclosure at the Johannesburg Zoo. When Max took the burglar down anyway, he became a national mascot in the fight against crime and was extremely popular until his death in 2004.

The Whole Bushel

In 1997, an armed robber named Isaac Mofokeng was trying to escape police when he ran into the Johannesburg Zoo. While fleeing, he unwittingly jumped into the gorilla enclosure. Max, a 418-pound male gorilla was resting inside, along with his mate, Lisa. Fearing for her life, Max attacked Mofokeng, who shot him twice—once in the shoulder and once in the neck. Unfazed, he grabbed the robber, knocked the gun from his hands, and pinned him against a wall, biting and thrashing Mofokeng.

Police arrived shortly after and tried to free Mofokeng, who was in danger of being killed. Two of the policemen were attacked by Max as well. (He bit one of them on the buttocks to keep anyone from feeling left out.) Authorities subdued the gorilla and took him to a local hospital, where they removed the bullet from his neck (but left the bullet in his should because they felt it would be too dangerous to operate on). After making a full recovery, Max became a national icon for those fed up with the incredibly high crime rates in South Africa.

He was given an honorary bulletproof vest, which was a few sizes too small, by the local police and became a spokes-gorilla for crime prevention and awareness. He was hugely popular at the Johannesburg Zoo, where he lived the rest of his life, until he died peacefully in his sleep in 2004. (Mofokeng ended up being sentenced to 40 years in prison, as he was a lifetime criminal.)

Show Me The Proof

Crime-fighting Gorilla Shot While Protecting Mate, Turf
BBC: S Africa mourns crime-busting ape
South Africa’s crime-fighting gorilla dies