Video footage has captured the incredible moment when conservationist Damian Aspinall introduces his wife to gorillas in the wild.
Aspinall is seen sitting on a riverbank in Gabon in Africa with 20-stone male gorillas Djalta and Ima – cousins who were bred at The Aspinall Foundation’s Kent wildlife park Howletts – while his wife Victoria looks on.
“Gorilla Whisperer” Aspinall encourages Victoria to approach the endangered western lowland gorillas, who were released into the wild 14 years ago.
As Ima makes a sound to indicate he has accepted the newcomer, Victoria approaches him and they nuzzle each other.
Aspinall jokes: “I think I’ve lost my wife. He’s completely in love with her!”
The Aspinall Foundation aims to reverse the rapid decline of critically-endangered western lowland gorillas.
It has reintroduced more than 60 gorillas back into the wild, including 22 who travelled from its parks in Kent.
Aspinall said: “All the team at The Aspinall Foundation work so hard to care for their animals and prepare them for their journey back to the wild, and seeing them so happy and free makes it all worth it.”
Victoria said: “Coming face to face with Ima and Djalta was pretty scary at first but ended up being the most beautiful and humbling experience, and one which I will never forget.
“The work of the Aspinall Foundation in breeding endangered species in captivity and then, wherever possible, sending them safely back to their native homelands is amazing.
“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 wherever possible rather than in captivity.”
:: Visit www.aspinallfoundation.org/the-aspinall-foundation/damian-and-victoria-aspinall-visit-gabon.