Man Introduces Wife To Gorilla Despite Warnings

No Turning Back

She’d already waded out to her waist and now there was no turning back. The gorilla was edging closer as her husband held out his hand, telling her back off.

But it was the sound it made at the back of its throat that really sent her heart racing. It was coming directly for her, and she could never have predicted what it was going to do. 

Opposites Attract

Victoria Fisher never imagined the course of her life would have taken such a wild turn when she married Damian Aspinall.

By the former city girl’s own admission, their relationship "shouldn’t work on paper," but they had fallen head over heels for each other when they met at a friend’s dinner party. And on top of the fact that they came from very different worlds, there was the fact that there was more than just the two of them in their marriage.

Animal Man

Damian Aspinall was the owner of not just one, but two zoos. His animals were his life and just something Victoria had to get used to.

But after appreciating that their marriage would mean inviting plenty of exotic and dangerous creatures into her life, Victoria would discover there was something else her new husband hadn’t told her. 

Man Cub

Damian didn’t just manage two zoos, he had lived with exotic animals his whole life. His father John Aspinall was the founder of Howletts Wild Animal Park and Damian had grown up on the 700-acre estate.

Victoria wondered what it was that Damian had to tell her that could possibly be any crazier than the fact that he’d practically been raised by wolves and gorillas. 


The story begins when Damian was very young. As he’d spent a lot of time around primates, climbing trees was second nature to him.

One afternoon, when he was seeing how high he could get, Damian slipped as his father looked on aghast. But before it was too late, a hand reached out to stop him plummeting to the ground.

Dry Your Eyes

Damian was plucked out of the air by a gorilla, who had been watching the youngster’s every move. According to Damian, she even dried his tears before swinging him onto her back and escorting him to the ground.

The event had a profound effect on Damian, and led to his dedication to conservation work as an adult and, eventually, the big news he had to share with Victoria.

African Adventure

His career in animal conservation had seen him take care of all kinds of animals, but there were two that had a special place in Damian’s heart.

He had raised gorillas Djalta and Ima from a young age, and when they were ready he released them into the jungle of Gabon. But he missed them desperately. And he wanted to know if Victoria would go with him to visit.

Risky Decision

Victoria didn’t know what to say. She’d come to love the animals in Damian’s life almost as much as she loved him, but going out to meet gorillas in the wild sounded really dangerous.

Damian explained that it would be a long and difficult journey over mountains and through thick jungle. Meeting a gorilla in its natural habitat was a thrilling proposal, but there was no way of knowing then what would happen when she finally came face to face with Djalta and Ima.

Journey To The Past

Raising the gorillas and releasing them into the wild had become a passion project of Damian’s ever since his father passed away, so he was very excited when Victoria agreed to accompany him on the adventure to reunite with them.

As the couple sat on the plane to Gabon, Damian confessed a sad truth about his childhood.

Lonely Boy

Damian didn’t have many friends when he was little. One might have thought that a young man with exotic animals roaming around his home would be the most popular kid in school, but sadly, his classmates’ parents didn’t see it that way.

“You don’t get playdates when you’ve got tigers in the garden,” he said. So Damian spent a lot of his childhood with only the animals to keep him company. And because of that, he made a vow that led him to the very journey he was on with his new wife.

Solemn Promise

The Aspinall Foundation, founded by Damian’s late father John, was dedicated to caring for orphaned gorillas - and releasing them into the wild. 

When he passed away, Damian vowed to pour his heart and soul into the foundation and continue his father’s legacy. But he had to confess, there was something about the trip to Gabon that the animal lover was more than a little worried about.

Safety Concerns

“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,” Damian recalled fondly.

So because he had always treated the animals like his own family, Damian was sure the gorillas would recognize him and not react aggressively. But he was worried about what they would do when they saw Victoria - and he was right to be concerned.

Heart And Soul

Damian genuinely loved the animals and would do anything for them. In fact, when his father passed away, he left no money to secure the future of the zoos - which were losing more than $5 million a year.

So Damian set his mind to building his own fortune through real estate, ploughing the cash back into his passion for conservation. Because if it were up to the rest of his family, the zoos would have been closed as soon as possible.

Family Dispute

“I can see why the other family members didn’t want to be involved, Damian explained. “My brother and sister had no interest in animals, but I was compelled to do it.”

And Victoria understood exactly what these animals meant to Damian the second she set foot in his bedroom and saw what he had been sleeping with before she came into his life.

Toothy Bedfellow

The first time Victoria saw where Damian lived, she had the fright of her life when she walked into his bedroom.

There on the bed looking up at her was Kago, an alpha male wolf. It was a baptism of fire for someone who was more used to the stresses of the world of business consulting in the city. In fact, she didn’t believe him when they first met, so decided to do some investigating.

Googled Him

When Damian was attempting to woo Victoria with tales of his animal whispering, she thought his stories were too fantastical to be true.

She even found herself Googling his name. “I couldn’t believe it all existed,” she said, laughing. But Victoria was yet to meet the most important part of Damian’s family, and she had her fingers crossed tight that they liked her.

Djalta And Ima

For all these years, Damian had wondered what had become of Djalta and Ima - the two gorillas that he had thought of and raised as his own children.

Although this wasn’t the first expedition Damian had led, it would be his new wife’s first time visiting the forests of Gabon – and her first time meeting gorillas in the wild. So it was important that he brief her on what can happen when you come face to face with a male gorilla.

Wild And Unpredictable

Damian was all too aware that fully grown gorillas – especially male gorillas – can be extremely dangerous. Although he couldn’t wait to see his old friends Djalta and Ima again, he just couldn’t know how they would react to Victoria.

But, first things first. He needed to get into the jungle and locate them.

Fearing The Worst

Victoria was about as ready as she’d ever be for her journey of a lifetime. As the plane came into land, Damian couldn’t shake the growing sense of trepidation that was creeping up on him.

He was aware that the gorillas may not take kindly to Victoria, the newcomer. But he was not prepared for what would happen.

Treacherous Path

Finding the gorillas was far more difficult than they had hoped. They trudged through dangerous mountain paths, took a boat down the river, and hiked through the jungle. But still no Djalta and Ima.

The gorillas could be anywhere in the dense jungle - maybe they didn't want to be found at all. Then, the team decided to take a more creative approach.

Plan B

After all else failed, Damian conceded that the best way to pinpoint them would be to use state-of-the-art technology. They released drones with high-definition cameras strapped to them, which were paired with Damian’s smartphone.

As the drones flew up the path and reached a clearing, the team had finally found what they were looking for.

Now Or Never

The gorillas emerged from the undergrowth, startled and confused by the unfamiliar drones buzzing overhead. They cautiously walked directly underneath them to try to ascertain whether the strange devices were a threat or not. 

Luckily for Damian, he immediately recognized Djalta and Ima near the riverbank. It was now or never. The team began their slow approach from the river.

Moment Of Truth

Now that it was time to finally meet the gorillas, Damian and Victoria were growing increasingly nervous. Would they remember Damian after all these years? And would they accept Victoria? 

But the couple wouldn’t have to wait long to find out. The gorillas spotted the boat approaching and moved closer, curious. Damian prayed their temperament wouldn’t shift dramatically - but that’s exactly what happened.

First Impressions

Gorillas are, by nature, elusive and shy creatures. They will do everything they can to avoid humans, retreating to the mountains and densely overgrown hilltops. Although they avoid conflict, they can be deadly when they feel threatened.

They were in the gorillas’ domain now — Damian knew that just one wrong move could mean disaster. 

Extreme Caution

The boat and crew drifted slowly to the riverbank, and Damian flew the drone back. As they drew nearer to Djalta and Ima, the crew fell silent. Everyone was waiting for the gorillas to make the first move, trying to anticipate what they would do next.

When they reached the land, it was Damian who moved off the boat, wading in waist-high water as he tried to approach them. Slowly… slowly.

So Far, So Good

When Damian reached dry land, he walked low to the ground, trying to present as little threat to the gorillas as possible. So far, so good. Then, Djalta and Ima began to make noises, low grunts at first, then gurgles and growls.

Damian knew what these noises meant – they recognized him! After making sure that the gorillas were comfortable with his presence, it was Victoria’s turn.

Don’t Make A Sound

Victoria, being careful not to make a splash, lowered herself into the water and began to wade toward her husband. “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,” Victoria said.

But although it was clear that the gorilla brothers had taken to Damian, they had a different reaction to Victoria entirely.


As Victoria approached, Damian stopped her with a wave of his hand. She stood stock-still as they waited. Damian tried to gage if the gorillas were showing any signs of aggression towards her.

It was a heartstopping moment as they both waited for a sign. Then, Djalta began to make a sound from deep in his throat.

Grunts And Gurgles

It was the same gurgling sound that the gorilla had greeted Damian with! Damian took it as a very good sign – it seemed like the gorillas would allow Victoria to come a little closer. She reached the bank and sat quietly by the river’s edge, ready to bolt back to the boat at the first sign of trouble.

Then, Ima made the low, rumbling sound too. And Victoria did not like the sound of it.


Damian took this as the sign he had been waiting for. Djalta lumbered right up to Victoria and nuzzled her face. They had accepted her! After many hugs and friendly nuzzles, Victoria and Damian decided that it was time to retreat.

It had been a long day. But that wouldn’t be the last they saw of Djalta and Ima. The next time they met, they were lucky they were filming.

Instant Connection

The couple and the crew returned to the same spot on the following day, hoping that the gorillas would still be close by. Luckily, they were right where they had left them – and this time Ima approached Victoria boldly. He rushed over to her, gurgling happily and embracing her.

It seemed that Ima had taken a liking to Victoria. Then, he did something unprecedented.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Ima the gorilla snatched Victoria’s hat right off her head and placed it on his own – just like a human would! The hilarious antics were all caught on film and uploaded to YouTube, where Djalta and Ima have since captured the hearts of millions.

The video quickly went viral, and more and more people wanted to know about these majestic creatures and their natural habitat.

About Gorillas

Gorillas live exclusively in tropical rainforests in Africa. They are divided into two categories – Eastern and Western gorillas. These two species were likely separated from one another during the Ice Age and have developed their own distinct characteristics.

Although gorillas have been known to leave the forest when searching for food, they need the forest to survive.

Dwindling Population

The gorilla population has been on a steep decline within the last 25 years. The western lowland gorilla numbers dropped by a staggering 60% and continues to drop at an alarming rate. This is mostly due to human interference and diseases such as Ebola.

Gorillas are also poached for meat, sport, and trophies. This has led to all species of gorilla becoming endangered or critically endangered. This is what Damian and other conservationists like him are trying to change.

Campaigning For Change

By uploading the video of his interactions with Djalta and Ima, Damian hopes to change the most common perceptions of these magnificent creatures. Generally, gorillas are shy animals and will avoid conflict. But, any attacks by gorillas that have occurred are largely due to human error.

If a gorilla feels threatened, they will defend themselves. Damian and Victoria proved that these animals need to be treated with respect and caution.

Raising Awareness

Damian and Victoria also hope to raise awareness of the gorilla’s plight. Their rehabilitation project for gorillas and other endangered animals, as well as maintaining the two zoos, costs them around $13m a year.

But what does Victoria have to say about her experience with the gorillas in their natural habitat? Would she ever go back?

A Humbling Experience

“It was the most beautiful and humbling experience and one which I will never forget. Somehow, because we were there on (Ima’s) territory, once I’d got over my initial fears, it seemed only natural to curl up in his lap,” she said.

“I hope that watching these gorillas, happy and free, will inspire those who believe, as we do, that the place for wildlife is in the wild rather than in captivity.”