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

  • Jacob

    Sounds to me like he was just a gorilla who attacks everything within reach.

    • Happyspanners

      Pretty sure you’d be pissed if you’d just been shot twice.

      • Jacob

        He attacked Mofokeng first, who in return shot him twice. If I had a pistol and was faced with an attacking gorilla I’d do the same. Criminal or not.

        • Happyspanners

          Male gorillas are quite territorial, but they will rarely attack humans. In reality, what probably happened was Max heard the guy in his enclosure and went over to investigate. I imagine seeing a male gorilla when you’re panicked is pretty terrifying and I bet he thought he was going to attack, hence why he shot him.


      True, but because he just happened to be shot twice by a criminal, and he happened to retaliate in a way that benefited society, humans will look up to him and feel proud etc.

      Not that you shouldn’t, but most of the times people overdo it, because in the end it doesn’t mean anything more than thanking a waterfall for ‘killing’ a criminal who inadvertently falls over to his death.

  • Andyman7714

    Next…crime fighting alligators.

    • inconspicuous detective

      that happens often enough.

  • Pyncky

    Mofokeng was an unlucky mofo.

  • Ian Moone

    Seems like he wasn’t trying to stop crime. He just wanted to kill everyone.

  • MinhSoupanousinphone

    Did you hear of the crime fighting nutmeg? He was pretty nutty but he was my highschool crush.

  • chairde

    You shoot a 400lb gorilla twice and all you do is just piss him off. Now that is the start of a real bad day.

  • Marozia

    Slapsie Maxie. Spokesgorilla…..I like that.

  • Sewo

    Maximum hax! Mofokeng HAX!!

  • gillybean

    Gorilla 1-0 Burglar. Fab!