BRITAIN’S oldest female gorilla has died in the arms of animal conservationist Damian Aspinall at the age of 57.
Babydoll, a western lowland gorilla, was put to sleep after she had stopped eating for four days and attempts to syringe feed her had failed.
Orphaned in Cameroon, she had been handraised at Howletts Wild Animal Park in Kent, owned by the Aspinall Foundation of which Mr Aspinall is chairman.
He had a close bond with the ape, who was a year older than him. Mr Aspinall posted videos of her final hours, saying it was ‘breaking my heart to see her like this’. He had to make the ‘horrible decision’ to have her put down by a vet. It is understood she died in his arms.
Mr Aspinall said: ‘I have many memories of her from my childhood and will never forget her.’ He said she had the ‘sweetest’ nature with a ‘truly original’ quirkiness. His wife Victoria said: ‘Although she was too old to release, her offspring have lived to be set free.’
The foundation, set up by Damian’s father John in 1954, promotes wildlife conservation and leads the way in the field of animal reintroductions.