When Victoria got married to Damian Aspinall, she knew that part of the package was his passion for animals! He was the owner of two zoos, so it would be an understatement that he was familiar with all sort of animals. Soon enough, he decided it was time for her to meet the gorillas he himself raised…
An Unusual Childhood
Damian Aspinall had a childhood full of exotic animals. This was because his father John founded Howletts Wild Animal Park in the year 1957. It was in the 700-acre property in Kent that Damian grew up.
They Looked Out For Him
There was even a time he found himself stuck in some tree. His saving grace came in the form of a gorilla who got him back to the ground! He said she wiped his tears away and comforted him as well.
The Aspinall Foundation
Howletts Wild Animal Park started when John Aspinall created the charity organization Aspinall Foundation. Its aim was the promotion of wildlife conservation and the launch of two zoos: Port Lympne Wild Animal Park and Howletts Wild Animal Park.
Inheriting The Organization
Another project by the organization was for orphaned gorillas. They reintroduced these poor animals back to the wild after rehabilitation. After his father passed away, Damian was the one to become the chairman. It was finally in his power to make his dream projects come true.
Better Than Humans
Damian does not recall having friends come ever during his childhood. He told the Daily Mail, “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.”
It might have been an odd one, but Damian said he experienced “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
Nowadays, Damian Aspinall has a net worth of millions of dollars. However, it was not like this when he was starting out in life. His father refused to help him financially, so he made a name for himself in real estate on his own. How did he manage to keep the zoo running when his dad did not leave him money?
A Burning Desire
Damian recalled, “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.”
Growing up, he helped raise baby gorillas! He forged a special bond with them that could be compared to that of a father and child. There were two male gorillas he was particularly fond of. He said, “Both of the gorillas were planned to be moved back into the wild in a protected habitat.”
Victoria is not Damian’s first wife. He was previously married to Louise Elizabeth Julia Sebag-Montefiore, with whom he has two daughters: Tansy and Clary. The former is now 30 years old and Clary is 27 years old. He has another daughter with ex-girlfriend Donna Air, a 16-year-old girl named Freya.
Like Their Own Children
Damian Aspinall and Victoria Fisher tied the knot in Tuscany in August 2016. The Burberry employee even joked that his love for animals was part of the package. However, she is also an animal lover and did not mind. ”It might sound crazy but I genuinely love the wolves as if they were my own children,” she remarked. “Kago even used to sleep in our bed!”
Through Mutual Friends
They first met at a dinner party, where she soon agreed to a date with him. “At the lunch date he had all these stories about Howletts so I Googled him afterward and couldn’t believe it all existed,” she said, “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
At that point, it had been more than a decade since he reintroduced Ima and Djalta to the wild. He thought it was time to see how they were doing. It was not the first time he came to check up on them in the protected habitat. However, there was something that would make it different now…
A Unique Trip
The reason is because he planned to take Victoria with him! How exciting is that? Victoria was on her way to meet two gorillas important to her husband. However, they had no idea what was about to come…
Missing His Gorilla Friends
When the two were still living at Howletts Wild Animal Park, they were close to Damian. They had a unique bond, although he was not sure if they would remember him. This is what he wanted to find out.
A Major Risk Involved
He also knew that adult gorillas could be dangerous. He was not sure how they would react with a stranger in their midst. Of course, he did not want to put his lovely new wife in a dangerous situation.
Going To Gabon
It didn’t take long before the couple, together with a team of experts, went to Gabon to go on a search mission. Damian was thrilled at the thought of reuniting with Ima and Djalta but nervous for Victoria.
The team came to Gabon all the way from the United Kingdom. They had plenty of things to do for the mission to be a success. They had to cross the challenging terrain and even take a boat ride!
Off They Go
Everyone knew that there was a good chance they’ll get injured at some point, but it was not enough to stop them. However, none of them expected it to be difficult to determine the location of the gorillas.
The Quest For The Gorillas
It sure was a smart idea for them to put GPS locators on the gorillas before they were set free. This made the search easier than it would’ve been. However, it still did not lead them to the specific location.
New Technological Innovations
The jungle was so dense that it was hard to find out where Ima and Djalta were. Moreover, Damian knew the best approach was to go slowly so they could avoid startling the gorillas. The others wanted to give up after searching to no avail, but he came prepared.
Since the GPS locators weren’t enough, he decided it was time to put his state-of-the-art drones to use. After connecting it to his smartphone, they surveyed the area for the pair of gorillas. At last, they spotted Djalta and Ima!
Is It A Bird
The object probably caught their attention as they then came out of the bushes. They were cautious as they stepped out, looking more confused than anything. However, they did not show any aggression. And that was the story of how they found Djalta and Ima by a riverbank.
In The Blink Of An Eye
They then saw the crew coming towards them on a boat. Ima and Djalta looked more intrigued than anything else. However, wild animals had a tendency to change their disposition as soon as they come.
At Long Last
The time to meet the gorillas finally arrived. Everyone was excited and nervous about this meeting. Would Ima and Djalta recognize Damian? Would they treat their human visitors with aggression? They were about to find out.
Gorillas are shy animals that tend to stay away from us. However, they are strong creatures who could kill us when we provoke them! It’s a good thing it takes a lot to provoke them.
What Happens Next
As they approached the riverbank, they turned off the drone to avoid overstimulating the animals. The entire crew wanted to do everything as carefully as they possibly could, which is why they approached them slowly.
How Would They React?
Of course, there were many questions running through everyone’s heads at that specific point. How would they act when they see the person who raised them? How would they react to a stranger like Victoria?
Putting The Plan To Action
Damian knew he needed to be the one to come to them as they might recognize him. However, 14 years is no joke. Although unsure about what would happen, he got out of the boat and waded the river.
Damian crouched to make sure he was not taller than they were. This was one way to appear less threatening, although they did not show aggression at all. In fact, they started making noises instead!
The noises were friendly ones! The grunt or gurgles were sounds he recognized. It seems that Djalta and Ima remembered him no matter how many years have passed. So, how did the meeting go for Victoria?
Slow And Steady
After seeing how comfortable they were in his presence, he knew it was time to take Victoria to them. “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,” she narrated.
Damian was sitting on the riverbank as Victoria crossed to join the three of them. However, he suddenly asked her to stop as she was approaching them. He wanted to check first how they would react.
Slowly But Surely
It was not hard to see why he was concerned about the whole thing. Nonetheless, she kept going and then rested at the edge of the riverbank. However, things changed when they let out a guttural sound.
Yup, that is right. They made the same noise they made for him! Clearly, they were not going to harm Victoria in any way. Damian then asked her to come closer as everything seemed to be fine.
Welcome To The Family
Damian thought the noise signaled their acceptance of Victoria into the family. His theory was verified by the way that they approached and nuzzled her! It certainly seemed as if they liked his new wife.
Gentle Nuzzles & Warm Hugs
They were friendly with the couple, offering warm hugs and gentle nuzzles all around. They decided it was time to get some rest and got on the boat once more. They weren’t abandoning them, however.
The Following Day
They returned to that area the next day, and they didn’t need to look far and wide as they stayed in the same spot as the day before. Ima seemed to have taken a particular liking to Victoria, judging by the noises he made.
They Began To Play
Victoria and Ima hugged and started to play together. There is no doubt the two got along together very well. However, nothing could have prepared the couple for what was about to happen. Any guesses?
Ima took her hat, looked at it, and then placed it on his own head! That sounds like something a silly person would do. Luckily, the interaction was recorded on tape and even made its way to YouTube.
In fact, the viral video garnered some 12 million views. Victoria and Damian likely had no idea the video was going to be such a hit. This was the video that took their fame to a whole new level!
Where They Live
Gorillas are found in African tropical rainforests. You will find eastern and western gorillas there. They have been apart for such a long time that they developed different characteristics. Did you know that mountain gorillas can climb tree line heights? The highest record was a height of 4,000 meters!
In the past 25 years, the western lowland gorilla population has suffered a 60% decrease. While it is hard to keep track because of their shyness, humans and diseases have caused the drop in population.
To This Day
Poachers continue to hunt the animals for meat, sport, or trophies. At the moment, all species of gorillas are endangered. Damian hopes to make it better by creating gorilla habitats such as the one Djalta and Ima now live in.
Gorillas Are Generally Gentle
Gorillas are shy creatures who are not particularly fond of humans. The primates, however, will leave us alone if we do the same thing to them. As you can see, this is a special case!
A Rare Case
There are times when gorillas have been dangerous to us, though it is not usually their fault. Only professionals should approach them. The same is true of the animal Freya Aspinall is in this photo with.
When gorillas feel surprised or threatened, it is their instinct to use violence for protection. Silverback male gorillas often respond with loud roars and bluff charges. Remember that they are fast and will bite you!
Prince William And Damian
Damian Aspinall has made a name for himself in the world of conservation. Can you believe that he has even met Prince William? The royal visited the rhino conservation of the Aspinall Foundation in 2012.
Becoming An Aspinall
The Aspinalls are rather famous in the United Kingdom for their work in the field. Victoria is also a gorgeous person who has appeared in various magazines. She has offered everyone a look into their amazing lives with their wild animals.
Man, how amazing would it be to get married to a person with wild animals in their home? Apparently, Damian meant this literally as he slept with baby cubs before they are released into the wild! Whoa.
Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve
The Port Lympne Hotel & Reserve is a 4-star hotel that the Aspinall family run. It is located inside the safari reserve, and guests can enjoy the view of the amazing gardens. This room looks pretty snazzy!
It is also possible to dine at this restaurant when you stay at the hotel. For $300 a night, it will be the experience of a lifetime! Safari passes are already included in the price, so what more can you ask for?
Freya Follows In Her Father’s Footsteps
Freya, Damian’s youngest child, is following in his footsteps. Although she is an animal lover, the teenager also works as a model. She is the youngest person Storm has ever signed, apparently! How amazing is that?
Tansy Also Has A Love For Animals
Here is 30-year-old Tansy who fondly looks back on her time with wild animals as a child. She said, “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.”
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.” Tansy supports her father’s passions for saving animals and believes it’s her duty to protect her endangered “family”. We wouldn’t be surprised if she one day runs the company.
The Aspinall Foundation is not limited to gorillas, however. There are plenty of other animals there. To list a few, they also take care of rhinos, lions, monkeys, and wolves! They raise these animals before reintroducing them to the wilderness later on.
A Joint Effort
Damian wanted to find someone who would be into conservation work like him. That was how he knew Victoria was the one for him. His love was cemented after he saw how much she cared about animals!
Victoria is helping the family and the foundation by making magazine and interview appearances. She has given us the opportunity to live vicariously through her eyes. It is always nice to hear what it is like to live such an incredible life.
In Your Wildest Dreams
In December, the couple had been bottle feeding a leopard cub named Saba before bed. They treated her like their own baby! This was the photo Victoria posted on Instagram about it. The caption read, “Nightfeeds for baby Saba last December…the cutest #family”
Freya is proud of all the amazing things her father has done over the years. According to her, he is her role model. She hopes to grow up to be just like him. Isn’t that the sweetest thing ever?
Towards The Future
The Aspinall family continues to do a lot of good to the world with their conservation work. The animal conservation charity saves lives with each passing day. Their dedication to the cause is highly commendable!