Damian Aspinall grew up around wild, exotic animals. His father, John, created Howletts Wild Animal Park in 1957. Growing up, he lived on the 700-acre estate in Kent, England. Growing up, he bonded with the animals. There was a gorilla mother who lived in the park who took young Damian under her wing. One day, when Damian was young, he got stuck in a tree. The gorilla climbed up and carried him down on her back. He says that he didn’t have many friends growing up, but he considered the wild animals his friends.
His Father’s Death
When Damian’s father died, he found out that there was no money left. His father put everything he had into the animal parks that he ran, and when he died, there was nothing left in the bank. He learned that the parks were losing £4 million per year, and he needed to find £10 million a year to keep them going. His brother and sister had no interest in animals, so they didn’t want to help. It was up to Damian to handle things. He managed to get the money together, and today, he is a millionaire.
Damien met Victoria by chance at a dinner party. She had no idea who he was when she agreed to go on a date with him. On their first date, he told her all about Howletts. His stories seemed so unreal that she Googled him when she got home to see if he was being honest with her. She was pleasantly surprised when all of his stories checked out.
When the couple got married in August 2016, Victoria was working at Burberry in Tuscany, Italy. She knew when she married Damian that the animals in his life were part of the package and she was okay with that. She loved that fact that he cared so much about these animals that he knew his entire life.
Djalta and Ima
When Damian was a child, he helped to raise two gorillas, Djalta and Ima. He spent most of his time with the two gorillas until his father decided that they were ready to be introduced back into the wild. It was hard for Damian, but he knew that it was the right thing to do. It had been 10-years since the gorillas went to live on their own, but they were never far from Damien’s mind. After marrying Victoria, he decided to check up on his gorilla friends, and take his wife to meet them.
Heading To Gabon
Damian and Victoria gathered a small team of experts, and they traveled to Gabon in search
A Difficult Search
Finding the gorillas was harder than Damian or his team expected. After traveling to Gabon in Africa, Damian realized that he would need to travel much further to find his friends. The group had to deal with rough terrain, and long boat rides through the river along the jungle. The gorillas had GPS locators attached to them, but the locators weren’t very hi-tech. This meant that they would only show the gorilla’s general location.
Damien expected to have some difficulty finding the gorillas, so he brought along a drone. He figured that with a bird’s eye view, locating them would be easier. It wasn’t long before the drones caught the gorillas’ attention, and they came out of hiding.
Damien wanted to approach the gorillas first. He hadn’t seen them in 14-years, and they remembered him. Both gorillas affectionately nuzzled his face. It was if no time had passed. Damien missed his friends, and it was a beautiful moment. He sat with the gorillas to forge a bond with them before bringing Victoria over. He wanted to make sure that it was completely safe for his wife to meet his childhood friends.
Victoria approached slowly, not knowing how the gorillas would react. They had never seen her before, but Damian was sure that if they saw that he trusted her, that they would as well.