Photo: Aspinall Foundation/Facebook
Sunday, March 15 at 7 PM ET/PT on the CBS Television Network
Aspinall, who owns Aspers, the U.K. casino chain, has bred thousands of wild and endangered animals on the grounds, before he began to finance expeditions around the world to release them. But many conservationists disagree with his mission. “Maybe it makes him feel good…but it’s not conservation,” says Tara Stoinski, President of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, run out of Zoo Atlanta, home to the largest collection of gorillas in North America. “We need funds to be going into saving these wild places so that the animals…can continue to survive.”
Aspinall has had success in the past releasing gorillas, mostly babies, into the wild. The vast majority have survived and even multiplied. But 60 Minutes cameras joined him on his most ambitious undertaking yet: releasing an entire gorilla family, including adults, to the wilds of Gabon. Conservationists warned this would not go well, and Aspinall himself knew there were a lot of risks involved. Our cameras were there at the final stage – the day the ten gorillas were let off an island they had spent a year on acclimating. Damian and his crew built a small “bridge to freedom” allowing the gorillas to cross into the unprotected wild. “And just over that bridge is the true wilderness,” says Aspinall. “This is the Holy Grail,” he tells Stahl. On Sunday’s 60 Minutes, Stahl reports on how the gorilla family fares in the wild.