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Wildlife Park Owner: ‘Shut Down Zoos!’

Damian Aspinall with Kifu

Wildlife park owner Damian Aspinall says it’s time to shut down zoos – especially city zoos. And to make his point, he’s preparing to release an entire family of 11 western lowland gorillas from his wildlife park in England to the wild in Africa as part of his charity’s Back to the Wild project.

The gorilla family being prepared for release from the Port Lympne Wildlife Park is headed by 450-pound, 30-year-old Djala, whose group includes his five “wives” and five young ones between the ages of eight months and six years, all of whom were raised in captivity. Djala himself was rescued from poachers in Africa and brought to Port Lympne in the 1990’s.

Unlike the many zoos whose “conservation programs” are little more than ways of justifying their profitable zoo operations, Aspinall is truly focused on bringing an end to the whole business of keeping nonhumans in captivity. He told the Evening Standard:

“The fact that we have to keep animals in captivity is a sign of the abject failure of us as a species. The long-term goal should be that we do not need to keep animals in captivity.

“The only reason to have zoological collections should be to protect endangered species and breed with the goal of releasing them into the wild. The idea that zoos should be for the education or entertainment of mankind fills me with horror.”

Aspinall is particularly opposed to city zoos. His “bête noir” is the London Zoo, which dates back to 1828. “There is no way that city center zoos can be looking after animals properly because they simply do not have the space,” he said “I think they should all be closed.”

aspinall-langurs-102212The Aspinall Foundation works in Congo and Gabon – the first large wilderness area to see gorillas hunted to extinction. Between 1996 and 2006, 51 gorillas were reintroduced to the region.

In addition to the gorillas, the Back To The Wild campaign is also planning to release six Javan Gibbons, eight Javan langurs (in the photo) and two bull elephants into protected areas of the wild.


Earlier this year, three black rhino were also released and are all reported to be doing well back in the wild in Tanzania.