had been five years since British naturalist Damian Aspinall had seen
Kwibi, a lowland gorilla who was born at Howletts Wild Animal Park
in England as part of an ongoing conservation program by the Aspinall
Foundation to re-introduce gorillas back into the wilds of Africa.
Several years after Kwibi was released to live in Gabon, West Africa,
Aspinall traveled there to see if he could catch a glimpse of his
old friend. Cameras captured the scene as Aspinall glided down the
river calling out to Kwibi, "C'mon! C'mon!" Incredibly,
Kwibi appeared on the bank. "He heard my voice and came to the
edge of the river," Aspinall explained in the video.
What happened next is astounding. Aspinall approached Kwibi cautiously.
After all, the gorilla is a wild animal and he hadn't seen the naturalist
in many years. And yet, Kwibi recognized Aspinall.
moment I heard his deep, rumbling love gurgle, I knew I was OK,"
explained Aspinall. Kwibi nuzzled his face close to Aspinall, then
wrapped his hairy arms around the man, refusing to let him go.
Aspinall had to leave, Kwibi followed his boat down the river. "All
night he hooted, calling for his friend," said Aspinall. At 6:00
the next morning, when Aspinall took a swim, Kwibi was there on the
banks of the river.
"It's no different if you go see a friend in another country
and you meet and you have a reunion and you go on your separate lives
again," Aspinall told Matt Lauer in an interview on "Today."
"I always feel I'll see him again."
Aspinall wants the video to encourage people to support the efforts
to protect animals in the wild. "I hope when people see this
they realize animals deserve their chance and it shows how gentle
gorillas can be," Aspinall said on "Today." "We
have a responsibility to this earth and I think as a species, we can
do so much more for this planet."