By Diane Small
To date, the foundation has released around 50 gorillas to secure areas in Africa. Unfortunately, several have been found dead, possibly due to having become used to humans and unable to care for themselves in the wild. Many critics, such as the president of the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund, have argued that while Aspinall’s goals are noble, more research on how and whether to release animals into the wild needs to be done before more meet a tragic fate.
There are some success stories, though: Kwibi, a male gorilla released in Gabon when he was 5 years old, was born and raised by Aspinall and his staff at Howletts, a wild animal park in Kent. After Kwibi’s release, Aspinall missed him terribly and tracked him down to see how he was doing. The result is astonishing, and the video, shown here, has amazed millions around the world.
Whilst Aspinall acknowledges raising animals and releasing them can be risky, he is far more concerned about the harm being done to captive animals. He angrily stated to the Daily Mail that most animals in zoos are housed in cages designed to maximise human’s viewing pleasure rather than mimic the animals’ natural habitats. They are also fed cheap, convenient, pellets rather than the fresh fruit and vegetation they would eat in the wild.
He even admits his own foundation’s parks are ‘prisons’ of a sort, but he justifies their existence by stating their ultimate goal is to return the animals to their homelands. And in the meantime, no expense is spared to improve the quality of their lives, and he points out that the survival rates among the animals the foundation has released in Africa are remarkably good: over 80 per cent of the gorillas still alive and flourishing, and
No matter the problems and controversies that may come with his wildlife releasing programs, Damian is undoubtedly a true lover of animals, with a deep, honest concern for the well-being of endangered species. Ultimately, he says any risks are worth taking, and importantly, he knows in his heart that what we he and his foundation are doing is right
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