When zookeeper Damian Aspinall ventured into the jungles of Gabon to visit his friend, a 10-year-old male gorilla he hadn’t seen in five years, no one knew what to expect.
The gorilla, Kwibi, was raised in Aspinall’s animal sanctuary in England, but had since been released back into the wild. Since so much time had passed, he didn’t really expect Kwibi to remember him, however, Aspinall was still very determined to find the gorilla and check in to see how he was doing.
“I wasn’t quite sure how he was going to react. He had attacked the last couple of human contacts he had come across, so he was considered dangerous,” Aspinall said.
The Western lowland gorillas are endemic to the dense forests and swamps of central Africa, and with their incredible strength can be extremely intimidating. Their size and often unpredictable behavior make them quite dangerous for humans to be around, yet Aspinall was on a mission to track down the gorilla anyway.
After several days of searching, a familiar face finally emerged from the dense jungle canopy. It was Kwibi.
“When I found him and jumped out of the boat on the side of the river, half of me was thinking ‘Is this going to go wrong?’, recalled Aspinall.
If Kwibi decided to turn hostile, the plan was for the team to distract him by throwing food so Aspinall could get away, but what happened next was absolutely beautiful.
Aspinall approached the gorilla and sat down on the ground next to him. He chewed some leaves in his mouth and offered them to Kwibi who eagerly accepted them. Kwibi was making a grumbling noise, a deep love gurgle, which is something gorillas do to show affection.
The two sat looking at each other for quite some time, soaking it all in, and when they finally embraced, it was an amazing moment.
“It was extraordinary really, it was probably one of the great moments of my life. He embraced me and was talking to me all the time, all the time he was talking to me.”
Aspinall said he was most worried when Kwibi started introducing him to some of his wives. After all, many of them were wild caught and they didn’t know Aspinall, but after seeing how Kwibi lovingly accepted him, so did all the other female gorillas.
When it finally came time for Aspinall to go, Kwibi didn’t want to say goodbye. He is seen hugging Aspinall from behind, tenderly holding on to him as if to say “Please don’t leave me again!”.
This beautiful story just goes to show the amazing bonds that humans and animals can form with one another. These loving gorillas although intimidating on the surface really aren’t that much different than us.
The Western lowland gorilla is currently a critically endangered species, but after seeing this video, it is easy to understand why Kwibi and other animals like him are definitely worth saving.
Watch the heartwarming video below of Aspinall and Kwibi’s reunion.
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