Jersey

Gorilla rescue at Jersey zoo 'just part of the job'

Jambo Image copyright Durrell Wildlife Trust
Image caption Jambo the silverback Western Lowland Gorilla stood of Levan Merritt until paramedics arrived

A paramedic who jumped into a gorilla enclosure to save a five-year-old boy has spoken about the rescue 30 years on.

Levan Merrit fell into the enclosure at Jersey Zoo on 31 August 1986 and paramedic Brian Fox leapt in to save him.

The drama made headlines globally after silverback Jambo seemed to "protect" the child until help arrived.

Looking back, Mr Fox said it was "part of the job" so "got on with it".

He said he made the decision to jump into the enclosure when the "boy turned on his back and went unconscious".

Image caption Paramedic Brian Fox jumped into the enclosure to treat Levan Merrit

He said: "The keepers were keeping another gorilla at bay so I could treat the boy."

There was panic from the dozens of people looking down as Jambo approached the child.

But he stood protectively over him and stopped other animals coming close to him until keepers were able to move the injured boy to safety.

Richard Johnston-Scott, head of apes from the 1970s until 2011 at what is now called the Durrell Wildlife Park, said the silverback gorilla just sat there as people shouted.

He said: "Jambo looked up as if he was saying 'why are you making so much noise'.

"[I'd] worked with him for the best part of seven years, I got to known him really well. I don't think that child was in any danger from the gorillas."

Image caption Signs are now on the boundary walls to the enclosure warning people not to put their children on the railings.
Image caption A statue to Jambo is a popular attraction at the wildlife park

Andy Wood, second in charge of the apes, first jumped in to protect the paramedic followed by bird keeper Gary Clarke.

Mr Johnson-Scott described them both as "incredibly brave".

Levan had a fractured skull and protruding bones, but Mr Fox says it was the potential skull damage that was the real problem.

He was flown to Southampton hospital and later made a full recovery.

Jambo died in the early nineties.

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