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Why Is This Toddler Playing in a Gorilla Cage? And Why Is There Video?


"I don’t have any of the fear of gorillas that people normally have."

TheBlaze has brought you recent viral videos of young children bravely standing up to wild zoo animals separated by only Plexiglass. Now, a 22-year-old video showing an 18-month-old playing in an enclosed gorilla pen has been released by a parent and it's sparking controversy. But why now?

According to the Daily Mail, Damian Aspinall knew some would be upset with the video he decided to release decades later because "with the Internet, it is different." His decision to make public this family footage is in an effort to show how "gentle and wonderful and noble these animals are."

ABC 15 out of Arizona says the video has left some parents "horrified" over the child's safety, even years later. Some of the negative comments about the footage posted on YouTube include:

  • "This is too sick, I don't even have the words! I am really can't believe how many people think this is ok!" -- dawnmom41
  • "I think this chap is taking a serious risk with his child." -- MrMrBilko
  • "Child endangerment!" -- fransisco8104

Other comments defend the relationship between the toddler and the gorilla, calling it a beautiful video and privilege and a great experience for the girl.

Watch the video for yourself:

As a toddler, Tansy, who is now 23, grew up among the grounds of Howletts Wild Animal Park in the United Kingdom. The video shows her playing in the straw with a 300-pound gorilla next to her.

The Daily Mail says the now-adult Tansy understands how some may find the video "quite shocking" and says it's because they were conditioned to see gorillas "in that King Kong kind of way."

But Tansy shares the hopes of her father that the video will show people how docile and "human-like" the gorillas can be.

"I don’t have any of the fear of gorillas that people normally have," Tansy told the Daily Mail. "I just feel love and warmth. Of all the  animals, gorillas are my favourite. And that’s because they were always something I went in with as a child. I remember them being so gentle –  they almost treated me as if I was one of their own little babies."

Gorillas were not the only exotic animal at Aspinall's park. Aspinall and his father before him worked with tigers, wolves, leopards, bears and other animals, according to the Daily Mail. Upon his father's death, Aspinall established a foundation -- the Aspinall Foundation -- that would put animals bred in captivity back into the wild. The Daily Mail reports that 139 gorillas, 33 black rhinos and 20 African elephants have been bred as part of the foundation's work to be released in Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Aspinall said to the Daily Mail that while he would let his children play with the gorillas, he would not allow them to be in cages with some of the animals listed above, making note that for him gorillas are different than say an adult tiger.

Some of animals in Aspinall's park have shown their dangerous side in the past. The Daily Mail reports two incidences of tiger killings in 1980 and 1994. It also reports in 1989 a chimp ripping off the arm of a 2-year-old who had reached into the cage.

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