The Aspinall Foundation is a British organization that helps promote wildlife conservation. The organization also raises animals who have nowhere else to go in their sanctuary. Whenever it’s possible, they try to release the animals back into the wild.
That’s just what happened with two male gorillas, Djalta and Ima. The foundation raised the gorillas at Howell Wildlife Park in Kent, England until they were 12 years old.
The Aspinall Foundation’s founder, Damian Aspinall, took a special interest in these two gorillas. Damian looked after them as they grew up, and the three formed an incredible bond.
When the gorillas were 12, The Aspinall Foundation decided it was time to release them into the wild. Damian was sad to say goodbye to the gorillas, but he knew this was the best thing for them.
The Aspinall Foundation released the two gorillas in Gabon, and Damian said his goodbyes.
Six years later, in June 2017, Damian and his wife Victoria traveled to Gabon to oversee the transfer of three young gorillas, Mbwambe, Rapha, and Dike.
While they were in Gabon, Damian and Victoria decided to visit Djalta and Ima. Victoria was worried that the gorillas wouldn’t accept her, but Damian assured her that it would be alright.
Damian and Victoria traveled by boat up a crocodile-infested river through the jungles of Gabon. When they reached the area where the gorillas were released, they used a drone to look for them. Finally, they spotted the two gorillas hanging out by the riverbank.
Damian and Victoria approached the gorillas. The gorillas immediately recognized Damian!
Once Damian saw that the gorillas were happy to see him, he introduced them to Victoria. Victoria described the moment she saw the gorillas for the first time to The Daily Mail:
“I was incredibly nervous, but I trust Damian’s experience with these animals and he beckoned me over, so I knew it would be safe.”
To Damian and Victoria’s surprise and delight, the gorillas immediately fell in love with Victoria. Victoria felt so comfortable with the gorillas, she let them curl up on her lap.
The gorillas were very playful with the couple—one gorilla even took Victoria’s hat and put it on his head!
“I think I’ve lost my wife,” Damian joked as Victoria and the gorilla hung out together.
Victoria loved getting to meet the gorillas, and she was truly touched by the experience:
“It was the most beautiful and humbling experience and one which I will never forget. Somehow, because we were there on his territory, once I’d got over my initial fears, it seemed only natural to curl up in his lap,” she said. “I hope that watching these gorillas, happy and free, will inspire those who believe, as we do, that the place for wildlife is in the wild rather than in captivity.”
Victoria and Damian shared an incredible moment with these amazing animals. If you’d like to see footage of their encounter with the gorillas, check out the video below.
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