Gorilla hugs human friend: Damian Aspinall & Tambabi embrace at Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent
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A gorilla and a man she has known all her life have shared a tender moment, caught on camera, as the pair were reunited. The great ape can be seen removing the hat from her old friend’s head and placing it on her own instead.
Damian Aspinall, an animal conservationist, crouched in front of Tambabi, 37, at Howletts Wild Animal Park in Canterbury, Kent. The park is owned by The Aspinall Foundation where Damian is chairperson.
The sweet encounter took place during a visit to Howletts on November 11 where the pair shared a gentle embrace. It was only possible due to the fact Damian, whose father created the charity owned private zoo in 1957, has known Tambabi since her birth as she was born in the park.
The gorilla and her family are very close to 63-year-old. In the video, Tambabi can be heard grunting and gurgling, which is how the animals communicate. According to a Howletts spokesperson, by making those sounds Tambabi is "intimating very loving sounds".
The Aspinall Foundation works with a number of wild animals, specifically western lowland gorillas. In fact, it is famous for having some of the largest family groups of this species of gorilla in the world. It also boasts the largest breeding herd of African elephants in the United Kingdom and has one of the largest breeding groups of lion-tailed macaques in the world too.
The charity protects a gorilla habitat the size of Kent on the Batéké Plateau in central Africa and claims to have saved more than 1,000 animal lives.
According to the Howletts spokesperson, the trust Tambabi shows in the footage is very rare. They said: "Tambabi and this family of gorillas only interact in this way with Damian and his conservationist daughter Freya Aspinall. Tambabi has known both Damian and Freya since her birth."
The park hasn't attempted such close contact between Tambabi and anyone else. They added: "It has not been attempted with anyone else other than Damian and Freya. It’s not something Damian would encourage other people to do as they are wild animals and not pets.
"This relationship is only possible through a lifetime of mutual trust, no training or taming. A lifetime of mutual trust and respect. No shortcuts. No tricks."