What does a millionaire casino owner have in common with a wild gorilla? That sounds like it could be the opening line of a cheeky joke, but in actuality, what they have in common is a very heartfelt bond.
Damian Aspinall may be a jet-setting casino owner, but he's also the head of The Aspinall Foundation, a conservancy group dedicated to supporting global wildlife. Among its myriad conservancy projects, its most outstanding endeavor may be that it rehabilitates and reintroduces once-captive gorillas back into the wild.
For Aspinall, one of those gorillas in particular, a youngster named Kwibi, captured his heart. The conservationist personally helped raise the animal for several years before setting him free in the Foundation's million-acre reserve in West Africa.
Five years later, Aspinall traveled back to Africa in order to check on Kwibi, who was now a fully-grown adult. The following video shows their touching reunion.
What's of particular note is that conservationists on the reserve warned Aspinall that Kwibi had previously attacked the last two people who came in contact with him.
Nonetheless, it's clear that this gorilla viewed his former protector with a higher regard than other human beings. And more surprising than abstaining from an attack, he showed an attachment to him even five years after their last meeting.
It's not unheard of for wild animals to form bonds with their protectors. Anna Julia Torres, a well-known animal conservationist in Colombia, often cuddles with the lions she keeps on her nature reserve. But Torres sees her animals daily, while Aspinall hasn't been a presence in Kwibi's life for some time.
The work of the Aspinall Foundation and others like it are crucial to gorillas' survival. These animals remain on the precipice of extinction due to the presence of so many manmade threats, not the least of which is rampant poaching.
Human industry continues to view them as things, commodities to be bought and sold, or simply discarded. But as we continue our destruction of gorilla populations unabated, videos like this one demonstrate that these creatures have their own internal lives—ones which are very much worth honoring and protecting.
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