19/10/2021

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how-freya-aspinall-is-following-in-her-conservationist-family’s-footsteps

How Freya Aspinall is following in her conservationist family’s footsteps

Freya Aspinall with one of the gorillas at the orphanage

The Aspinall Foundation

She might be only 17, but Damian Aspinall’s youngest daughter Freya is already following him into the family business, after recently taking part in a rewilding mission in the Congo.

It was a sentimental trip for the teenager, as she was parting ways with Joshi, a 13-year-old, 30-stone gorilla who she has known since he was born. The primate had been raised at the family’s Howletts Wild Animal Park, before being relocated to his ancestral homeland at the Lesio-Louna Reserve, Congo-Brazzaville this spring.

Freya Aspinall with one of the gorillas at the orphanage

The Aspinall Foundation

During the extraordinary trip, which Freya undertook alongside her father, she bonded instantly with two recently rescued orphan gorillas, named Loukelela and Bomassa, utilising the innate skills picked up by growing up alongside the animals her entire life. She was able to communicate with and read their behaviour and vocalisations – something that she no doubt learnt from her father and grandfather, the latter of whom set up the orphanage.

Damian Aspinall is rewilding 13 elephants from Kent to Africa in biggest conservation coup yet

Indeed, Freya’s unique bond with the gorillas was so special, they exhibited never before seen behaviours, such as greeting her in the morning at the camp, following her to play, refusing to walk without her and bidding her an emotional farewell, showing that they did not want her to leave. The moving scenes were captured on video, and will premiere tonight on the Aspinall Foundation’s YouTube channel at 6pm, below.

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‘It was such a privilege to see these young gorillas thriving at the orphanage after being saved from heartbreaking circumstances,’ Freya said of the experience. ‘My visit to Joshi was particularly poignant, having seen him born and grow up at Howletts. It was so fantastic to see him acclimatising so well to life in the Congo.

‘The team here are incredibly dedicated, and the success of the Foundation’s Gorilla Protection Project is testament to that. I want my visit here to highlight the desperate plight of these animals. I believe my generation has real power to change their future, and I’m passionate about being a messenger for that.’

Established in 1989, the Aspinall Foundation’s gorilla orphanage was the first of its kind in the world, and has rescued over 80 gorillas since then. The Foundation has also reintroduced over 70 gorillas back into the wild, including 26 that were raised in its two parts, Port Lympne and Howletts.

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