Family of gorillas to be released in Gabon by Aspinall Foundation
- Kent conservationists are hoping to be the first in the world to release an entire family of gorillas into the wild.
The Aspinall Foundation is aiming to release record numbers of animals into their natural habitats over the next year. Among those is a family of 11 western lowland gorillas - being sent to the charity's flagship project in Congo and Gabon.
The charity claims no other conservation organisation in the world has ever attempted to release a family group. The mission, planned for early next year, is part of founder Damian Aspinall's work for the last 12 years with governments to protect almost a million acres of the countries' ecosystem.
The gorilla family now being prepared for release from is headed by Djala (pictured above, courtesy Dave Rolfe), a 30-year-old, weighing 200 kilos. The group, now based at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park near Hythe, comprises his five "wives" and five offspring between the ages of eight months and six years, all reared in captivity. Djala himself was spectacularly rescued from poachers in Africa and brought to Port Lympne in the 1990s.
The area where the Aspinall Foundation works in Congo and Gabon was the first large wilderness area to see gorillas hunted to extinction.
Already, between 1996 and 2006, 51 gorillas have been released by the foundation - 25 in Congo and 26 in Gabon.
These two projects are said to be the only gorilla reintroduction projects in existence. As well as the gorillas, the KM Group-supported Back to the Wild campaign is planning to release six Javan Gibbons, eight Javan langurs and two bull elephants into protected areas of the wild.