Prolific casino owner and conservationist Damian Aspinall intended to raise funds for gorilla conservation efforts through a video he posted on September 14, but instead, he has been criticized for risky parenting.
The video, taped 22 years ago, show’s Aspinall’s then-18-month-old daughter Tansy Aspinall playing with critically endangered western lowland gorillas in a cage at Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent, England. The gorillas weigh roughly 300 pounds.
Her father taped the video to show gorillas’ gentleness, in hopes of raising funds for the Aspinall Foundation to send these gorillas back into the wild. Within days of the video’s online presence, Aspinall appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America to defend his actions.
“I can see what the perception is here but the reality is that I was brought up with gorillas, my family had been brought up with gorillas and if you’re brought up with gorillas and part of the family group, it’s not risky at all,” Aspinall said, according to ABC News’ Katie Kindelan.
His daughter said she does not specifically remember the making of that video, but she does remember spending time with animals in their cages. She said she trusts her father wouldn’t put her into a cage with potentially dangerous gorillas.
“I think the most important thing about gorillas to remember is, exactly like humans, there’s some which are much more kind and gentle than others, which is the one that we [would] go in with,” Tansy said. “My dad would never put me in with an overly aggressive gorilla, ever.”
Since the Aspinall Foundation was established in 1984 by Damian’s father John, it has released back into the wild more than 40 confiscated wild-born gorillas, released nine captive-born gorillas and celebrated 20 births. Damian Aspinall is probably best known internationally for the reunion video between him and a 10-year-old lowland gorilla named Kwibi, who was born at Howletts Wild Animal Park.