Covered in a space blanket, pipes down his throat and life support machines keeping him alive, little Joshua the chimpanzee was rushed from the Netcare Milpark hospital in Johannesburg in an ambulance to the ICU at the University of Pretoria's faculty of veterinary science at Onderstepoort on Wednesday.
Fighting for his life, this 18-month-old primate had apparently fallen victim to bigger chimps in his family group at the Johannesburg zoo early in the day.
Joshua was in a stable condition last night, but his prognosis was not very good.
Dr Leon Venter, veterinarian and anaesthetist at the faculty, said: "We have induced him into a coma as he is on a ventilator. There is swelling on the brain that prevents the chimpanzee from breathing on his own."
Louise Gordon, executive manager of marketing and education at the Johannesburg zoo, said Joshua, who was born and raised at the zoo, shared an enclosure with other chimps.
"The family group includes adults and baby Joshua. It appears that two males got into a fight early (yesterday) morning and Joshua got caught up in it. He was badly injured," Gordon said.
When zookeepers found him, they immediately separated the baby from the others and took him to the zoo's vet hospital.
"The vet suspected a head injury, but they are not equipped to do a brain scan. So they rushed Joshua to the Netcare Milpark hospital," Gordon said.
Nick Dollman, spokesperson for Netcare 911, said the hospital took X-rays and scans, revealing serious head injuries.
Medication was administered to the young chimp and he was placed on life support machinery.
"Joshua was taken to the faculty at Onderstepoort in an ambulance as it was the safest way of transporting him in this emergency," Dollman explained.
En route the chimp was monitored by a paramedic, a trauma nurse and the zoo's vet.
Venter said last night Joshua was unconscious when he arrived at the faculty. He had concussion, bite marks and swelling on the brain.
"We will take him off the anaesthetics by midnight to see if he can breathe on his own. If he can, it is a good sign. It doesn't look good, but one never knows with wild animals. Sometimes they can surprise you with their survival urge," he said.
Venter said he would stay with Joshua throughout the night.
Dollman said afterwards their equipment and ambulance were thoroughly sterilised and prepared for transporting humans.
"In our profession we see a lot of sadness, so we are glad we could help. We hope this has a happy ending," he said.
Gordon quietly remarked: "We are extremely grateful for all the assistance."