Amos Courage (the step-brother of Damian Aspinall – owner of the Port Lympe and Howletts wildlife parks in Kent, focused towards the conservation and breeding of endangered species) and Dr Samantha Corsellis (Trustee of the charity TUSK) – invited me to accompany them on a trip to the jungles of Gabon, in an area bordering with the Congo, to experience the reintroduction of captive born and orphaned young gorillas to the wild.
Following a flight from the UK to Libraville, Gabon’s capital, and a second internal flight to Franceville – and spending a night at a hotel on the coast (that would barely merit the description anywhere else) in the company of the French Foreign Legion – we embarked on an eight hour off-road drive in a Land Cruiser, before arriving on the banks of the Ogooué river and another six hours in a canoe with an outboard motor. The next seven nights were spent at the Aspinall’s camp in the jungle with the veterinary team responsible for the reintroduction of the gorillas. Trips out into the jungle every day, usually on the river, to search for the first family group of gorillas that had been released two years previously led to us finding them on a river bank grazing on wild ginger – which is when Marc snapped these images – and, amazingly, the gorillas clearly recognised Amos from his years rearing a number of them in the UK.
The English Group has been invited to participate in conservation initiatives in the Highlands of Scotland, in East Anglia and along the UK’s East Coast, the Carpathian Mountains in Romania, and in Kenya in East Africa; and has been privileged to visit all of these projects on multiple occasions. However, being a part of this opportunity to see these orphaned and captive born primates reitroduced into their natural habitat has been a truly unique experience.