After making a fortune in real estate, British tycoon Damian Aspinall decided to use some of that money to establish a foundation dedicated to protecting wildlife. The foundation’s work with gorillas is particularly close to Damian’s heart. In fact, he’s personally helped with the rescue and rehabilitation of dozens of injured, neglected, or orphaned gorillas.
Djalta and Ima were two gorillas that Damian had raised from the time they were babies until they were 10 and 12 years old. Six years after their return to the jungle, Damian wanted to see his old gorilla friends again and introduce them to his wife Victoria. He couldn’t be sure how they’d react to her, but figured that if they saw she was part of his group, everything would be okay. Victoria was cautiously optimistic: “Now they’re much bigger. They’re 16 and 18 year-old male gorillas, so it’s slightly scary. And I’ve never been in contact with a gorilla before, so hopefully, if everything works out well, I can go and see them and be in contact with them. But we’ll see.”
After arriving in Gabon, on the Atlantic coast of central Africa, they headed upriver in a motorboat, scanning the banks for the gorillas. Eventually, they had to send up a drone, which quickly located them. A paradox about gorillas is that they’re very gentle creatures yet also extremely strong and potentially aggressive if they feel threatened. Between that and the possibility they might not recognize Damian after not seeing him for six years, the gorillas would have to be approached with caution.
As you’ll see in the video posted below, not only did the two gorillas welcome their old friend Damian with open arms, but they quickly took a liking to Victoria. When they came back the next day, the gorillas seemed to like her even more: one of them wanted a hug and then swiped her hat. As Damian quipped, “I think I’ve lost my wife.”
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