Published: 14:00, 16 November 2014
The eldest daughter of Kent animal park owner Damian Aspinall has been reunited with a pair of wild gorillas more than 20 years after she was controversially pictured playing with the primates.
Tansy Aspinall, 25, was just an 18-month baby when she first met Djalta and Bims at Howletts Zoo in Canterbury prompting a public outcry from saftey campaigners.
A series of images captured the moment the gorillas tenderly cradled her in her arms as well as rubbing noses, kissing and sniffing her.
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The apes were released into the wild in 2002 but instantly recognised Tansy and her dad when they travelled to Africa four months ago on an improbable mission to track them down.
After taking a boat trip into the heart of the jungle in Gabon they discovered two quizzical faces keeping an eye on them from the forest before an enthusiastic reunion
The touching moment was filmed and is available on the Aspinall Foundation's Youtube account.
Tansy told a national newspaper: "My sister Clary and I often played with Djalta and Bims on the lawn and sometimes we went into the cages with other gorillas. I loved being around them all, but those two guys were really very special to us, like our relatives.
"I last saw them when I was ten and they were being crated up for the trip to the conservation site in Gabon.
"When we set out to find them again I was a little apprehensive at first because I didn’t know if they would remember me after all that time, or if they had become hardened by life and possibly dangerous.
"So, it was amazing to see that not only did they know me, but they had such gentle looks on their faces that I felt immediately safe and reassured. At no point did I feel fear. They had some rough and tumble with dad, but were really very gentle with me.
"Dad greeted them first and made sure it was safe before I got close. He would never let me near an overly aggressive gorilla."
Video: The emotional moment Tansy is reunited with the gorillas she hasn't seen in years. Courtesy Aspinall Foundation
Mr Aspinall has run the Howletts and Port Lympne animal parks since the death of his father John in 2000.
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