After making his fortune, British real estate tycoon Damian Aspinall switched his focus to nature, taking the helm at the wildlife conservation foundation he father started. The foundation’s work with gorillas is especially close to Damian’s heart and over the years, he’s personally had a hand in the rescue and rehabilitation of dozens of injured, neglected, or orphaned gorillas.
Djalta and Ima had been raised by Damian since they were little baby gorillas. Once they were old enough, they were returned to the jungle. Six years after that, Damian really wanted to see his old friends again and also introduce them to his wife Victoria. But how would the gorillas react? Would they remember Damian? Would they accept his wife? Victoria was cautiously optimisitic: “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, in central Africa, Damian and Victoria hopped aboard a motorboat and headed up river, carefully scanning the banks for any signs of the gorillas. The great apes proved elusive but a drone soon revealed their location. Although gentle by nature, gorillas are incredibly strong and if they feel threatened, they can become aggressive. Even human-raised gorillas like Djalta and Ima would need to be approached carefully.
It turned out to be a happy reunion! Not only did Djalta and Ima welcome their old friend Damian with open arms, but they took an immediate liking to Victoria. One of them even asked for a hug and then stole her hat! Poor Damian could only say, “I think I’ve lost my wife.”
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