It’s a no-brainer that you should know the person you are about to marry on a very deep level. Victoria knew what she was getting into when she married Damian Aspinall, the owner of two zoos. However, was she ready to meet the wild gorillas he raised?
An Unusual Childhood
Damian Aspinall grew up with exotic animals. It’s no wonder since his father John started Howletts Wild Animal Park in 1957. It was in this 700-acre property where he spent the days of his childhood.
They Looked Out For Him
He can even tell you about the time he got stuck in one of the trees. He was rescued by a gorilla, who put him on her back and brought him down! Damian even said she wiped his tears away. Whoa.
The Aspinall Foundation
The opening of Howletts Wild Animal Park was one of the things the Aspinall Foundation did in the past. The agency wanted to promote wildlife conservation and opened Port Lympne Wild Animal Park as well.
Inheriting The Organization
The organization has a project for orphaned gorillas, which involves reintroducing these creatures into the Plateau Bateke National Park in Gabon. After John’s death, Damian became the chairman. It was time for him to do the things he wanted since he was little.
Better Than Humans
When talking about his childhood, he does not remember having human friends over. “You don’t get playdates when you’ve got tigers in the garden. The odd mate came, otherwise it was just me and the animals. To be perfectly honest, I’ve always felt disconnected, and humans inevitably let you down – animals never do. There’s more of an honesty and purity there,” he told Daily Mail.
However, he still calls it “an extraordinarily blessed childhood.” He said, “We’ve got Super 8 films from the ’60s of me as a seven-year-old, playing with tigers and bison around a tree or tearing around the lawns with a gang of wolves.”
Making His Own Fortune
Although he now has millions to his name, things were different before. His father did not help him in a financial way, so he had to work his way up in the real estate business. After John’s death, there was no left to take care of the zoos. How did Damian keep the family enterprise alive?
A Burning Desire
Damian Aspinall said, “You have to understand that when he died, there was no money in the bank and these parks were losing £4m a year. Now we have to find £10m a year. I can see why the other family members didn’t want to be involved. My brother and sister had no interest in animals, but I was compelled to do it.”
When he was a young boy, he helped raise a number of gorillas. He had a bond with them and considered them to be his own kids. There were two male gorillas he was close with. He said, “Both of the gorillas were planned to be moved back into the wild in a protected habitat.”
Damian might now be the husband of Victoria, but he was previously married to Louise Elizabeth Julia Sebag-Montefiore. They have two daughters: Tansy and Clary. He also has a daughter by the name of Freya, his child with ex-girlfriend Donna Air.
Like Their Own Children
Damian Aspinall and Victoria Fisher tied the knot in Tuscany, Italy in August 2016. The ex-Burberry employee even joked that she was also marrying the animals. Luckily, she did not mind. She said, “It might sound crazy but I genuinely love the wolves as if they were my own children. Kago even used to sleep in our bed!”
Through Mutual Friends
The two of them got to meet at a dinner party. She said yes to a date with him, though she didn’t know who he was yet. “At the lunch date he had all these stories about Howletts so I Googled him afterward and couldn’t believe it all existed,” she confessed. She added, “I wouldn’t naturally go for that sort of setup. And I don’t think anyone would have put us together on paper. Damian would say the same thing – neither of us was looking for the other.”
Looking For Djalta and Ima
It had been over a decade since the two gorillas were taken to the wild. He decided it was time to check up on them and see what they were up to. How would things change when he brought Victoria there?
A Unique Trip
Of course, Damian was going to take Victoria with him on this trip. How do you think she felt when she heard about the plan? At any rate, these two did not expect what was about to happen soon.
Missing His Gorilla Friends
Ima and Djalta got to know Damian during their time at Howletts Wild Animal Park. They had a unique bond with their caretaker, and he wanted to see if they would be able to remember after all this time.
A Major Risk Involved
He was aware that there were risks involved when dealing with adult gorillas. He did not know how they would feel about a stranger approaching. Of course, Damian did not want to put Victoria in danger.
Going To Gabon
Soo enough, the couple assembled a team to join them on their trip to Gabon. Damian was thrilled to be reunited with the gorillas but felt nervous as well. Despite this, off they went to go on an adventure.
The crew left the United Kingdom and headed to Gabon, though it was going to be a long way to find Djalta and Ima. The couple had to cross tough terrain and ride a boat to get to their location!
Off They Go
They all knew that injuries were definitely possible, although such a minor thing did not put them off. Despite this, they had no idea that it would be more difficult to find the gorillas than they thought.
The Quest For The Gorillas
It was certainly a smart move to put GPS locators on the gorillas before releasing them. This made it possible to narrow down their whereabouts, though it was still not specific enough to pinpoint a spot.
New Technological Innovations
Although there were people looking after the gorillas, it was hard to figure out where they were in the jungle. Damian also thought they might get spooked. It was a good thing he brought something to help with it.
Since they did not find the gorillas using the GPS locators, they then used advanced drones connected to Damian’s phone. He was able to survey the terrain with the use of the gadgets. At last, they found them!
Is It A Bird
The flying object caught their attention, which led them to step out of the bushes. They were cautious because they did not know what it was. Djalta and Ima had been in a river bank, which was a good thing.
In The Blink Of An Eye
Djalta and Ima then saw the boat with the entire crew. They looked more intrigued than anything else, at any rate. However, they were still wild animals who could change their behavior at any time.
At Long Last
It was almost time to get up close and personal with Ima and Djalta. There were many questions running through their mind. Were they going to recognize their old friend? What was going to happen now?
Gorillas are generally shy creatures that do not come close to humans. Still, they are strong and could kill us after some provocation. The good thing is that they are actually fairly hard to provoke! Whew.
What Happens Next
As the boat neared the river bank where the two had been, the crew members first retrieved the drone. It might only overstimulate Djalta and Ima. The boat was coming by slowly and steadily. What now?
How Would They React?
Of course, you probably want to know how Djalta and Ima reacted after seeing Damian for the first time in so long. Did they remember him? How did they decide to Victoria while they approached?
Putting The Plan To Action
There was no better candidate to make the first interaction than Damian. After all, perhaps they still remembered him after all this time. He left the boat and waded the river, making sure to move slowly.
Damian also crouched to make sure he would not be any taller than them. This was one method to look less threatening. They did not act aggressively and even started to make noises Damian remembered!
The gurgling or grunting sounds they made were definitely friendly noises. It was clear that Djalta and Ima still remember him regardless of how much time has passed. But how did they treat his wife?
Slow And Steady
Damian could tell that they did not mind his presence, so he tried to introduce his wife to them. Victoria came to them slowly but steadily. She recounted it this way: “I decided to gently ease my way ashore. I didn’t want to frighten them and I wanted to make sure that they were relaxed.”
Damian was sitting on the riverbank when Victoria got there. She only had a few feet to go when he told her to stay rooted in her current spot. He wanted to ensure that the gorillas would not act aggressively.
Slowly But Surely
Despite the thrilling reunion, the gorillas took their time with him. It was only natural that he was wary about introducing Victoria when she finally got there. However, one of them made a guttural noise.
It was actually the same grunting and gurgling noise they made for Damian. The two of them interpreted it to be a sign of acceptance. He asked Victoria to come nearer because everything seemed to be fine.
Welcome To The Family
Damian thought the noise was the gorillas’ way of accepting Victoria into their family. Another proof was that they approached and nuzzled her! It seemed like they had taken a liking to her right away.
Gentle Nuzzles & Warm Hugs
The gorillas acted friendly to both the lovebirds by showering them with hugs and nuzzles. However, Damian and Victoria eventually decided to head out. They were not abandoning the two, of course.
The Following Day
Victoria and Damian returned the next day and hoped the gorillas would be there again. They were lucky since the gorillas were where they left them. Ima rushed over to Victoria and made the noises again!
They Began To Play
Victoria and Ima hugged each other and started to play together. There was no doubt that they were getting closer to one another. The next thing that happened took both Victoria and Damian by surprise.
Ima took off Victoria’s hat, turned it around a little, and then placed it on top of his head! That sounds like something a person would do, right? The moment was caught on tape and posted online.
After posting it on YouTube, it got about 12 million hits. Whoa. We doubt they knew it would get so viral! The two of them were rather famous to start with, but this was a whole new level of fame.
Where They Live
You will only find gorillas in the tropical rainforests down in Africa. The two categories would be the eastern and western ones, though there used to be only one at some point. They have been separated for so long they are now considerably different. The creatures stay in the forest and only go out to get food.
In the past 25 years, the western lowland gorilla suffered a 60% decrease in population. Even though it is hard to keep track since they are naturally shy, diseases and human intervention have caused this.
To This Day
Poachers like to hunt them for meat, trophies, and sport. Right now, gorilla species are either endangered or critically so. Damian is doing his best to improve things for the animals in the animal park.
Gorillas Are Generally Gentle
Gorillas generally have a shy nature and are reserved about making contact with humans. The primates will leave you alone as much as it could help it. Clearly, there was something special about this story.
A Rare Case
They could also be dangerous creatures, but this is caused by human error more often than not. Avoid them if you are not an expert. They are like cheetahs who will behave aggressively when scared.
When gorillas are surprised or threatened, they will act violently in order to keep themselves safe. Silverback male gorillas will make bluff charges and roar loudly. They can run very fast too as well. Yikes.
Prince William And Damian
As you already know, Damian Aspinall is a famous conservationist. He has even met Prince William in the past! The Royal got to know Damian for his efforts and visited his rhino conservation in 2012.
Becoming An Aspinall
The Aspinalls are rather famous in the United Kingdom for their conservation work. In fact, Victoria has appeared in various magazines to show us what it is like to live with all these wild animals.
How would you feel if you have wild animals at home? Damian once slept with baby cubs as he was raising them before reintroducing them into the wild. We bet it was tough, but love conquers all!
Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve
The Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve is a 4-star hotel the family runs. It rests within the safari reserve and boasts of great landscaped gardens. This room is amazing! A female lion looking right at you? Cool.
Feel free to dine at this great restaurant when you opt to stay at the Port Lympne & Reserve. For the price of $300, it is not bad at all. Don’t miss out on such an incredible deal!
Freya Follows In Her Father’s Footsteps
Freya, Damian’s youngest child, is following in his footsteps. She also loves animals and helps out when possible, but she is now focusing on her modeling career. She is the youngest person signed by Storm!
Tansy Also Has A Love For Animals
The 30-year-old Tansy Aspinall narrated, “From the cottage you can see the gorillas. I started hanging out with them when I was really young – there are photographs of me riding on their backs – and I remember always feeling so comfortable around them. I never felt afraid or in any danger.”
Aside from gorillas, the Aspinall Foundation also has other things to deal with. They also deal with lions, rhinos, and wolves! They are trained to help save them from extinction and endangerment in the future!
A Joint Effort
It was important for him to have a significant other who is into conservation work like he is. That must be one of the reasons he fell in love with Victoria after meeting her the dinner party.
Victoria Aspinall helps both the family and the foundation when it comes to publicity. She has allowed us to glimpse what happens in their amazing lives. Can you believe they actually live like this? Whoa.
In Your Wildest Dreams
In December, the couple had been bottle feeding a leopard called Saba every single night before turning in. She was like the little baby that they had to give dinner this way! She posted this on Instagram with a caption that read, “Nightfeeds for baby Saba last December…the cutest #family”.
Freya must be proud of everything her father has done through the years. According to her, he is her role model and hopes to be at least half the person he is. Those are such sweet words!
Towards The Future
The famous Aspinall family and the wonderful foundation are some of the reason we still have our animal friends. The animal conservation charity continues to save lives every single day. Let us give them a moment of applause, ladies and gentlemen!