John Damian Androcles Aspinall (born 24 May 1960) is an English businessman and conservationist, notable for his raising and release of a number of a zoo-bred Lowland Gorilla in Gabon. He is the son of Jane Gordon Hastings and John Victor Aspinall (zoo owner, gambler and founder of Aspers, conservationist and stepson of Sir George Osborne, 16th Baronet). Aspinall was educated at Millfield School, Somerset. His wealth is estimated to be around £200m.
Damian Aspinall acquired his wealth independently in the real estate business - his father refusing to assist him financially. After his father's death in 2000, Damian bought back the family casino interests with the help of Australian associate James Packer, son of Kerry Packer.
He runs the John Aspinall Foundation started by his father, and his stated goal is to breed gorillas and return them to the wild. He manages Howletts Wild Animal Park and nearby Port Lympne, where 120 gorillas have been born and 77 presently live. The foundation has released 51 gorillas to secure areas in Africa. Several of them have been found dead, possibly due to having been primed to humans and being unable to care for themselves in the wild. Critics, among them the president of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund have commented that this outcome was predictable.
Kwibi, the celebrity gorilla released when 5 years old in 2005 in Gabon, had been born and raised at Howletts, a wild animal park in Kent. Aspinall tracked Kwibi in 2010 and the video of the reunion became widely viewed on YouTube.
Damian Aspinall was married for 15 years from July 1987; his wedding to Louise Elizabeth Julia Sebag-Montefiore (b. 31 July 1962), daughter of Peter Geoffrey Edmund Nathaniel Sebag-Montefiore and Joanna Ethne Julia Poett, took place at Westminster Abbey. She is the mother of his two daughters, Tansy and Clary.
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