Gorillas Reunite With Girl – You Won’t Believe Their Reaction

Most of us who grow up in the city are raised with domesticated animals like cats, dogs, or maybe hamsters, but seldom do we have the chance of interacting with other wild species. This wasn’t the case of Tansy Aspinall, who was lucky enough to be raised among a troop of gorillas in the deep jungles of Gabon. The reason she lived in the jungle was that her father, Damian Aspinall, worked at a wildlife center that rehabilitated gorillas and released them back into the wild.

When she was 6 years old, she and her mother went back to the city, where she attended school. Many years later, after graduating from college, she went back to Gabon to visit her former gorilla friends. Do you think the primates remembered her? The animals’ reaction when they first saw her will leave you in awe!

Photo: Courtesy of Aspinall Foundation

#21. The Gorilla Rescue Center

Tansy Aspinall never had what one might call a normal childhood. She was born and raised in the middle of the jungle in a small West African country called Gabon. But why did her family live in such a remote place, you may wonder?

Photo: Courtesy of Evening Standard

Her father, Damian Aspinall, was a famous wildlife conservationist and he and his wife ran a rehabilitation center for captive gorillas. The rescue center’s main goal was to release the animals back to their natural habitat in the West African jungle.

#20. Tansy And Her Gorilla Friends

Growing up in the jungle, Tansy’s early years were sharply different from those of any other girl. Instead of making friends with girls or boys her age at school, she would befriend and play all day with the gorillas who lived at his father’s rescue center.

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In fact, Tansy would feed them, play hide and seek with them, and even look after them as we all do with our average apartment dogs. During her years as a toddler, running around with her gorilla pals was all she ever did.

#19. Gorillas Are Our Friends

But what did Tansy’s father’s job really consist of? As we’ve said, he was the man in charge of the gorilla rehabilitation center. The center counted with a staff of over a dozen people, who were in charge of feeding and offering medical assistance to the rescued primates.

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Also, Damian always stressed the importance of interacting with the gorillas as much as possible, encouraging both the staff as well as his own family to talk and play with them. This explains why Tansy would play around with these furry creatures on a daily basis.

#18. Protective Animals

While the gorillas were generally rather calm and peaceful, Aspinall’s staff did suffer a few deadly attacks. Throughout the 80s and 90s, 5 staff members were killed by accident by gorillas.

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In spite of these fateful tragedies, most of the interactions that Damian and his family had had with the gorillas had been touching and truly amazing. In fact, when Tansy was just a toddler, the animals would always take care of her and protect her at all costs.

#17. Set Free

However, once the troop of gorillas had already recovered from their wounds and underwent the rehabilitation process, they were ready to be set free into the wild. Finally, the time had come for them to be sent back to the open jungle.

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Before being completely released, Damian sent them to a river island for one or two months, just to see whether they could fend for themselves out in the wild. It was only then that the troop of 10 gorillas was completely set free.

#16. Anxious And Heartbroken

When the time came to let them go, Damian, his wife, and Tansy were both anxious and heartbroken. Anxious, cause deep down they were worried about the animals’ well-being, but heartbroken because they had developed an extremely close bond with the apes after such a long time.

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But they were fully aware they had to part ways, as the gorillas belonged in the jungle. As to the family’s future, they had plans to move back to the city and send their daughter to elementary school, like any other kid her age.

#15. In Search Of Her Childhood Friends

Back in the city, Tansy went to school and went on to study in college. But nearly 2 decades later, after turning 25, she decided she wanted to go back to the jungle and reunite with her childhood friends: the gorillas.

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She asked her father if they could head back to the Gabonian jungle in search of Djalta and Bimms, the two apes with whom Tansy had bonded the most as a toddler. Damian agreed, so they set out to find them.

#14. An Unprecedented Case

Throughout all his life, Damian had helped rehabilitate and release to the wild almost 80 gorillas. However, there was something special about Djalta and Bimms, as they had been like siblings to Tansy. But apart from that, there was something else these two special.

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These gorillas belonged to a large troop that had been released together. This was an unprecedented case in the field of animal rehabilitation, and because of this, the results of releasing them into the wild were uncertain.

#13. Welcome To The Jungle

Tansy was extremely anxious, not only hoping to find her longtime friends but also that they would remember her. To be honest, Damian doubted they would recognize her daughter, as over 12 years had passed since their last encounter.

Photo: Courtesy of The Nerve Africa

But Tansy had her hopes up and couldn’t wait to see how the gorillas would react. So she and her dad got into a boat and set sail towards the depths of Gabon’s dense rainforests. However, little did they expect what was yet to come.

#12. Bittersweet Nostalgia

Even though Tansy was optimistic, she knew it was touch and go whether the animals would recognize her. Deep down, she was worried about their reaction. She wondered whether she still looked like the little toddler she once was.

Photo: Courtesy of D News

As they set out in search of the monkeys, walking through the jungle stirred a bittersweet feeling of nostalgia in Tansy. She felt as if it had been just yesterday she had spent her days out in the air messing around with her furry best friends. It was then she realized how lucky she was for having been raised in the jungle among nature.

#11. They Were There!

Damian had spent almost all his life in the jungle, so he clearly knew how and where to find the gorillas. They usually live close enough from the rivers so that they don’t grow thirsty, but far enough from them so they can hide from potential threats from predators or hunters.

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After hiking for nearly 2 hours, Damian and Tansy finally found the troop of gorillas they were looking for. Can you guess how they reacted? You’re in for a big surprise!

#10. The Time Of Her Life

As crazy as it sounds, Djalta and Bimms recognized Tansy and raced towards her. They gave her a big warm hug, ran around her in circles, and even screamed out in excitement. Tansy was touched. The moment she had so much longed for was finally happening.

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Tansy hugged and played with her two pals for over an hour, but while she felt she could stay there forever, she knew she had to go back home. She made the most of her two days in the jungle, but before she knew it, it was time to say goodbye.

#9. Threat From Poaching

As you can imagine, the thought of never seeing them again made her feel a knot in her throat. Although she was already thinking ahead and planning the dates for her next visit, she knew that nothing was for certain. This could possibly be their last encounter.

Photo: Courtesy of Daily Mail

The sad truth is that gorillas are one of the most endangered species, mainly because of poaching. Thousands of gorillas are hunted each year, and that’s the reason why they can never be completely safe in their natural habitat. Of course, Tansy was fully aware of that.

#8. The Price Of Freedom

Unfortunately, the price of freedom can be incredibly high, at least for gorillas. To begin with, this troop of gorillas had spent part of their lives interacting with humans in a rescue center, so they were way more vulnerable to predators than those who had always lived in the wild.

Photo: Courtesy of Life Daily

Also, they were more prone to eating venomous fruits or plants, some of which may have deadly effects. Of course, Tansy trusted their friends and hoped they would survive, but destiny had other plans. What happened next will break your heart.

#7. Tragic News

It happens to be that Djalta, Bimms, and the rest of the troop lived in the Gibon Reserve, a medium-sized natural reserve in central Gabon. The area is monitored by a group of wildlife specialists who have the task of controlling the animal population, not only of gorillas but of other endangered species as well.

Photo: Courtesy of Life Daily

These people are equipped with state-of-the-art technology and they can even trace some of the animals by using radio transmitters. And it was thanks to these devices that one of the workers discovered the most tragic news that nobody was prepared for.

#6. Missing Gorillas

Two months after Tansy’s visit, two gorillas were reported missing, both female. It was soon confirmed that the missing animals were Djalta and Bimms. A research team looked for them for two days straight, day and night, but they were nowhere to be found. On the third day, they found their dead bodies.

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The news spread, and Damian and Tansy soon found out. Naturally, they were heartbroken. Tansy couldn’t come to terms with the fact that she would never see her childhood friends ever again. But what on earth had happened?

#5. What Happened?

Initially, the reserve staff guessed they had been attacked by a leopard, or possibly a cheetah, some of the only animals that can hunt down an adult gorilla. However, they found no traces of bites or deep wounds, ruling out that hypothesis.

Photo: Courtesy of Life Daily

But if it hadn’t been a leopard, then who was to blame? The people soon realized both their bodies had been beaten violently. This meant that they had probably been attacked by another gorilla. But the mystery was slowly turning into a crime drama because two days later, this happened.

#4. More Victims

Two days later, three more gorillas from the same troop were found dead, and yet another one was reported missing. By the end of the week, Djalta’s five female partners and his baby had all been found dead, raising the total death toll to 8.

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The gorillas’ names were Tamki, Kishi, Mumba, Kibi, and FouFou, aged 25, 16, 27, 22, and 22, respectively. As to the baby gorilla, his name was Akou and he was barely 3 years old.

#3. Many Sides To The Story

While it all indicated that a gorilla had been responsible for the attacks, they still hadn’t ruled out the possibility that a poacher had perpetrated the killings. What if someone had broken into the reserve illegally?

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In fact, some people even came to say that it could’ve all been an attempt to sabotage the Aspinall family’s rehabilitation project. However, Tansy and Damian were almost sure about what had happened. This is their side of the story.

#2. The Main Suspect

According to Tansy and her father, the killer had probably been an adult gorilla known by the name Boumanga. He belonged to a different troop but had also been rescued from captivity. Apparently, after being mistreated and physically abused for so many years, he had turned into a psychotic.

Photo: Courtesy of Aspinall Foundation

Because of this, Boumanga was one of the most dangerous gorillas not only in the reserve but in the country. Therefore, the people tried to find him so as to confirm Damian and her daughter’s theory.

All I can say is that I have spent my entire life among gorillas and I have never seen anything like it. It’s an absolute shock — the one thing we couldn’t see coming“, Damian said.

#1. Unsolved Case

Although proof of Boumanga’s attacks has never been found, this tragedy helped raise awareness of the threats that gorillas face throughout the African continent. In fact, little research has been done as to the psychological effects produced by holding animals under captivity.

Photo: Courtesy of The Aspinall Foundation

“Can you get psychotic gorillas? For sure — it can happen with all animals. Maybe (as a baby) he was kept in some shed, or hung upside down, or beaten. We don’t know his exact background so we don’t know what mental damage there might have been”, Damian said.

However, impossible is nothing for the Aspinall family, who will keep on struggling to find new ways of protecting gorillas from human threats and keeping them safe in their natural habitat.

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    Hernán Tamargo

    Teacher. Political Scientist. Writer. Feminist... and much more!

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