Gorillas are some of nature’s most majestic creatures. It could be our evolutionary similarities that make them so captivating to us, or maybe it’s their relationship with the natural world. Whatever the reason, gorillas and humans share a special bond.
That’s why preserving their habitats—and their populations—is so important. The Aspinall Foundation has worked for years to help make this possible for gorillas all over the world. After Damian Aspinall took a trip to Africa to visit two gorillas he rescued, he was eager to introduce them to his wife. But he had no idea what was about to happen when they finally met…
In 2003, Damian had been a key part of the team that transported two male gorillas, Djalta and Ima, from Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent back to the protection project sponsored by his foundation in Gabon.
He formed a bond with those gorillas and was curious to see how life in the wild had changed them.
Damian was also eager to introduce Victoria to the two gorillas who made a major impact on him.
Still, more than a decade had passed since Damian last saw the gorillas, and both he and Victoria were slightly trepidatious about how the encounter would play out…
In order to reach the site where the gorillas made their home, the Aspinalls had to travel down the Niari River for several hours.
They knew that finding the gorillas would be a challenge, but they were up for it if it meant checking in on Damian’s beloved friends!
Working with foundation staff and local trackers, the Aspinalls were able to get very close to the last known location of the gorillas.
However, before they left their boat, they had another tool they could use to make sure they were in the right spot.
The Aspinalls smartly brought a drone with them that they connected to Damian’s phone.
Not only was he able to control it wirelessly, but he was also able to see through a camera on the drone. Before long, they’d found the gorillas’s current location!
Djalta and Ima were, understandably, curious about the strange flying object that was invading in their space, but they didn’t seem too annoyed.
If anything, they were fascinated, and this drew them out from the bush.
When the Aspinalls arrived with their camera crew, the gorillas were even more intrigued.
It was clear that they were thriving in the wild, but that didn’t mean they had turned their backs on the ways of man.
The team safely returned the drone to the boat and then prepared to approach the gorillas.
While the animals seemed relaxed, the team was careful to remember just how powerful and unpredictable wild gorillas can be.
Damian was the first member of the team to approach the two male gorillas. He made sure to stay on their level; he didn’t want them to think he was making any overt threats against them.
Once the gorillas were comfortable in his presence, he encouraged his wife to wade closer to the shore.
It’s hard to say for sure if the gorillas remembered Damian, but they certainly seemed to know their old friend quite well.
They were slightly more wary with Victoria, who resumed her careful approach. She needed to move slowly if she wanted to gain their trust.
Once the gorillas both seemed to be more at ease in her presence, Victoria gradually crawled up onto the shore.
She took care not to make any sudden movements or to startle the gorillas in any way. It was a tense but exciting moment…
Once Victoria had settled in next to her husband, the gorillas couldn’t hide their true feelings anymore.
They made their way over to Damian and Victoria, curious to examine their old friend’s wife… whether she was ready for it or not!
The gorillas suddenly barreled towards Victoria, but instead of knocking her to the ground or harming her, they leaned into her affectionately!
It was like they knew how important she must be to Damian…
Victoria wasn’t sure what to expect when the gorillas approached her, but it certainly wasn’t this!
She couldn’t get over how gentle they were, even though they were intensely curious about her.
As soon as the gorillas realized that Victoria was just as comfortable with them as they were with her, they wasted no time making her a part of their community.
In fact, they treated her like one of their young, pulling her into their laps for cuddles!
It was clear that the two were forming a very special bond all their own.
It was everything Victoria had dreamed of when she first set out on the trip with her husband, but she hadn’t dared hope that these dreams would come to fruition.
For Damian, this was also a dream come true.
Not only was he able to locate the gorillas that he helped care for, but he was able to introduce them to the woman who meant the most to him in the world.
The only thing the gorillas loved more than Victoria and Damian was Victoria’s hat!
They grabbed it right off her head, and when they weren’t cuddling up to her, they each took turns trying on the hat for size. Looks like one size does not always fit all!