Worldwide Conservation

Worldwide Conservation

The Aspinall Foundation is a registered charity. We are actively involved with several projects that incorporate a diverse range of conservation activities both at our Kent based Howletts and Port Lympne Wild Animal Parks, and with well-established overseas projects. Our main conservation-based activities include captive breeding, education, ecosystem management and the rehabilitation of confiscated wild animals in our Back to the Wild projects.

Celebrating 30 years of conservation

Celebrating 30 years of conservation

The Aspinall Foundation celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2014; the charity that started as a passion for animals has become world renowned for its ground breaking conservation efforts, helping to protect some of the most endangered animals on this planet.

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Our Mission

John Aspinall started his famous animal collection in 1957 when he bought Howletts Wild Animal Park. In 1973 he bought Port Lympne Wild Animal Park to help house the growing groups of animals. Today the two wild animal parks are home to over 1000 animals and 100 different species. The Aspinall Foundation, is the registered charity set up to work with the wild animal parks in Kent who are responsible for the reintroduction and ongoing mangement in the wild of animals that have been born in Kent. To date The Aspinall Foundation have reintroduced western lowland gorilla, black rhino and przewalski horses born in Kent back into the wild.

  • To halt the extinction of rare and endangered species in the wild
  • To continue to provide the most natural environment possible for the animals in both parks
  • To re-introduce these animals back to their wild habitat where this is possible
  • To continue to be world leaders in animal husbandry and breeding
  • To be a partner and catalyst to conservation efforts at home and abroad
  • Increasing public understanding of animals and their welfare and the issues involved in their conservation
  • To manage wilderness areas
  • To develop sustainable conservation-minded activities which provide economic benefits on a local and national scale.

30 years of The Aspinall Foundation

We celebrated our 30th Anniversary in 2014. It was John Aspinall's passion for animals, and his belief that the threat from humans was so great that radical decisions had to be made if we were to protect endangered species, which led to the creation of the charity 30 years ago.

  • 1984

    The Aspinall Foundation was set up

  • 1985

    Agreement signed for Sumatran rhino conservation project

  • 1986

    Torgamba, Sumatran rhino arrived at Howletts

    Djala the western lowland gorilla arrived from Africa

  • 1987

    Congo gorilla protection project set up in Brazzaville

  • 1989

    First orphan gorillas and Max the bonobo arrived in Brazzaville

  • 1990

    John held discussions for Przewalski horse reintroduction in China

  • 1992

    10 Przewalski horses sent to China

  • 1993

    Creation of protected gorilla reintroduction site in Congo

  • 1995

    First eastern black rhino sent back to Africa

  • 1996

    First 6 gorilla orphans released in Congo

  • 1998

    Gabon gorilla protection project set up

    Sumatran rhino, Torgamba, sent home to Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary

  • 1999

    The first 2 gorillas born in Kent started on journey back to the wild in Gabon

  • 2001

    First 17 gorillas released in Gabon; 9 more gorilla orphans released in Congo

  • 2002

    Batéké plateau National Park created in Gabon, incorporating gorilla reintroduction site

  • 2003

    A group of 6 gorillas left Kent for the Gabon

  • 2004

    Max the bonobo returned home

    Teke was born in Congo, the first ever birth to a reintroduced gorilla

  • 2006

    A clouded leopard pair from Kent sent to Cambodia

    4 babies born to released gorillas in Congo

  • 2007

    2 rhinos reintroduced to Tanzania

    First baby gorilla born in Gabon

  • 2008

    Madagascar lemur project created

    Oudikis group of 3 gorillas left Kent for Gabon

    Wildlife law enforcement project set up in Africa

  • 2009

    Java primate project created

    Double number of known sites in the wild for greater bamboo lemurs

  • 2011

    Rescued first group of Javan gibbons

    Black and white ruffed lemur project started in Madagascar

  • 2012

    Great bamboo lemur removed from the list of the 25 most endangered primates in the world

  • 2013

    Djala and his family returned to the Gabon

    The 25th birth is celebrated for the African gorilla project

    First birth celebrated in Java

    6 langurs and 1 gibbon returned to Java

  • 2014

    Build on our success in Africa, Madagascar and Java to fight for the conservation of wildlifethrough reintroduction, protection and awareness

The Aspinall Foundation is a charity

The Aspinall Foundation is a charity. We need your support to help us continue to protect rare and endangered species.

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Back To The Wild

The Aspinall Foundations founder, John Aspinall, dreamt of reintroducing gorillas bred at Howletts and Port Lympne back to the wild almost as soon as he started collecting and breeding them in the early 1970s.

Today, this dream is being carried forward by his son, and current chairman of The Aspinall Foundation, Damian Aspinall. We believe that the reintroduction of animals into their natural habitats can help conserve wildlife and their habitat.

Over the past few years alone, we have reintroduced a range of animals including black rhino, Javan langurs, Javan gibbon, European bison and western lowland gorillas back to their natural habitat. 

Follow the stories of our animals below.

Overseas Projects

We carry out important conservation work all over the world. Find our more about our projects below.

  • Congo & Gabon

  • Java

  • Madagascar

  • Wildlife Law Enforcement

  • Cambodia

  • India

  • Camera Traps

  • Scottish Wildcat

Congo & Gabon

Since 1987, The Aspinall Foundation has been working with the governments of the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) and since 1998 in the neighbouring state of Gabon to protect nearly 1million acres within the unique savannah ecosystem of the Batéké Plateau that spans these two countries.

These projects, named "Projet Protection des Gorilles", (PPG) work with local partners and national governments to develop a three-pronged approach to stop the rapid decline of critically endangered western lowland gorilla numbers (down by 60% in the past 20-25 years).

The projects work within globally accepted conservation strategies (IUCN and Great Apes Survival Project - GRASP) and routinely disseminate reports and results at conferences and in international publications, while popular articles have featured in many high readership publications such as National Geographic, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent and Africa Geographic.

The projects have also featured in two BBC produced television documentaries as well as the award winning "Gorilla Gorilla" documentary for Animal Planet.

The Aspinall Foundation funded park rangers work to protect this biodiversity hotspot where species such as forest elephants, servals, Debrazza monkeys, red river hog and forest buffalo are found. The success of the anti-poaching activities has been widely praised by national government and NGO partners, such as the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Java

The tropical rainforests of Java used to be filled with the haunting sound of gibbons singing to one another. Now these forests are shrinking in size and stand eerily quiet.

On December 11th 2009 The Aspinall Foundation signed the Memorandum Of Understanding that launched a new project to save the endangered Javan Gibbon (Hylobates moloch) - also known as Moloch or Silvery Gibbon. These primates are unique to the Indonesian island of Java, where it is estimated that less than 2,000 remain. With no population group containing more than 100 individuals, they are currently the most endangered of all the gibbon species. The main theats to this species are from sale in the illegal pet trade (young animals are hounded using dogs), hunting for food & medicine, and deforestation.

At present there are only around 50 captive Javan Gibbons outside of Indonesia, held at ten zoos around the world. While these zoos are cooperating in a captive breeding programme, only a few pairs are breeding successfully.

Howletts and Port Lympne Wild Animal Parks together hold half of the world's total captive population - currently housing 11 males and 13 females between the two parks. With 24 viable births since 1988, we are the world's most successful breeder of this species.

Madagascar

The Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus) is arguably the most threatened of all lemur species, and one of the rarest primates in the world. The species is endemic to Madagascar, and occurs in small patches of the eastern rainforest belt as well as in some peripheral fragments of degraded forest habitat. Surveys carried out by the conservation charity's teams on the island, resulted in the greater bamboo lemur being removed from the list of the 25 most endangered primates in the world, for the first time in a decade. 

The latest population estimate for the greater bamboo lemur is about 250 individuals. In addition, there are only 20 animals in captivity, with nearly all descended from the same two wild born individuals.

The Aspinall Foundation is seeking to identify unprotected areas that support bamboo lemurs or bamboo lemur habitat and prioritise them as areas needing additional support. Large areas within the distribution range for this species have not been assessed and more detailed studies were undertaken to discover potentially unknown groups or populations. In 2009, the surveys undertaken by the charity in collaboration with a number of other NGO's has resulted in the identification of several new habitat locations and as such, has doubled the number of locations where the Greater Bamboo Lemur is known to occur.

The Aspinall Foundation is also protecting other species that are native to Madagascar such as the crowned sifaka and indri. The steps that have been proposed to achieve our conservation goals for these species include facilitating conservation actions, undertaking population and habitat surveys across their distribution range, managing protected and unprotected areas where the species are known to exist and developing strategies to protect individuals located in areas that can not be adequately managed.

The crowned sifaka which lives in dry deciduous forest is under threat from habitat destruction, hunting and forest fragmentation

Wildlife Enforcement

The illegal trade in gorillas and bushmeat has decimated wildlife populations in countries such as Congo, and a lack of enforcement of national wildlife laws has provided no real deterrent to these illegal practices. In a bid to tackle this problem, a wildlife law enforcement project named PALF (Projet d'Appui á l'Application de la Loi sur la Faune Sauvage) was initiated in 2008.

This collaborative project has been designed to enforce wildlife laws, provide deterrents to killing wildlife, and monitor illegal wildlife trade along with other detrimental activities. By increasing awareness and prosecuting offenders, the PALF project aims to reduce the overall level of illegal hunting and trade in the Republic of Congo and to date it has celebrated a number of significant successes including several seizures of live animals, animal pelts, ivory, and other animal products.

Cambodia

Cambodia's only government-run wildlife rescue centre the PTWRC provides care and rehabilitation for a number of endemic species. The Aspinall Foundation have a long working relationship with the centre's technical advisor Mr Nick Marx, who works for US charity, Wildlife Alliance. The funds provided by The Aspinall Foundation assist in supplementing the very low income paid to the centre's animal keeping staff and provides a crucial incentive for them to remain at this job and take good care of the animals in their charge. Other expenses that are covered include food, running costs, transport and veterinary fees.

The Aspinall Foundation also provided half the total amount needed to build an enclosure for Chhouk, a young bull elephant who lost one of his feet to a snare. As Chhouk grows older and less manageable this large enclosure will allow him to have as full a life as possible.

Cambodia

Cambodia's only government-run wildlife rescue centre the PTWRC provides care and rehabilitation for a number of endemic species. The Aspinall Foundation have a long working relationship with the centre's technical advisor Mr Nick Marx, who works for US charity, Wildlife Alliance. The funds provided by The Aspinall Foundation assist in supplementing the very low income paid to the centre's animal keeping staff and provides a crucial incentive for them to remain at this job and take good care of the animals in their charge. Other expenses that are covered include food, running costs, transport and veterinary fees.

The Aspinall Foundation also provided half the total amount needed to build an enclosure for Chhouk, a young bull elephant who lost one of his feet to a snare. As Chhouk grows older and less manageable this large enclosure will allow him to have as full a life as possible.

This is an area of outstanding biological diversity, with forest habitats ranging from temperate to tropical. While there has been some damage to the local habitat by the slash-and-burn culture prevalent in the area, it remains largely untouched by major development. However, even such a remote region as this is facing a future which could see the entire region becoming a desert landscape over the next 30 years. Providing support to an organisation that is working towards changing local land-use practices and attitudes towards the natural environment is therefore a vital step in protecting this unique wilderness, and the species living within it.

The rescue centre currently houses over a dozen residents, made up of a number of different species such as crab eating macaques, stump tailed macaques, Rhesus monkeys and civets.

Camera Traps

Camera traps are an effective and unobtrusive method for conservationists to measure wild animal populations and track the frequency and distribution of their movements. After a relatively short trial period in our Congo & Gabon project, these devices have already yielded a bounty of biodiversity data, including images of leopards, bushbuck, forest elephants, chimpanzees, blue duiker, serval and even the prehistoric aardvark.

Most recently our camera traps obtained the very first footage of a new infant gorilla that was born to one of the Park's largest family groups. Lembali born to mother Souba has been named with help from our facebook and twitter followers.

The camera traps also enable us to monitor all the species that live within the Park. Ranging from elephants and leopards to small forest antelope and rodents, the Batéké Plateau National Park is brimming with wildlife. The species captured on film serve as a gauge to the health of the Park's fragile ecosystem.

The Aspinall Foundation wants to build on its already successful camera trap program in Africa by purchasing 10 more cameras to be located across the 1 million acres protected. Tracking the post-release progress of the gorillas is crucial to ensure that they are thriving in their new surroundings.

Scottish Wildcat

Port Lympne Wild Animal Park has been appointed as the studbook holder for the Scottish Wildcat captive breeding programme. This species is Britain's most endangered carnivore and there are just an estimated 500 left in the wild, under threat mainly due to cross breeding with feral domestic cats. The breeding programme is in its infancy but with a track record of success and commitment to such long-term programmes, initial work is already planned in conjunction with Prof David MacDonald of the Wildlife Conservation Unit (WildCru) at the University of Oxford. We currently have eight Scottish wildcats at Port Lympne. However before the breeding program is underway, necessary modifications and facilities will need to be established.

  • Every 60 minutes 3 species disappear
  • 1 in 4 mammels are now threatened to extinction
  • We protect half of all known great bamboo lemurs
  • We have reintroduced 50 gorillas and celebrated 24 births

Supporters & Partners

The Aspinall Foundation would like to say thank you to all our partners who are helping fund our global conservation work.

  • Conservation International
  • Parcs Gabon
  • Seoul Zoo
  • Pasa
  • University Of Antananarivo
  • Helpsimus
  • Government Of The Republic Of Madagascar
  • G.E.R.P.
  • Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Trust
  • Espace Zoologique
  • Beauval Nature
  • Eaza Conservation Fund
  • Wildlife Conservation Society
  • Government Of The Republic Of Indonesia
  • Association Mistinjo
  • Government Of The Republic Of Congo

Publications

As an internationally renowned conservation charity The Aspinall Foundation regularly publishes papers in scientific journals. For the first time we are also producing our own publication 'Wild Conservation' . In the section below are links to our most recent issues and papers published in Wild Conservation.

Where does the savannah fauna of the Batéké Plateau come from?

Tony King & Amos Courage, Wild Conservation 1: 1-9

Saving the Critically Endangered greater bamboo lemur Prolemur simus

Tony King & Christelle Chamberlan, Wild Conservation 1: 10-16.

Conserving the Critically Endangered black-and-white ruffed lemur Varecia variegata through integrating ex situ and in situ efforts

Tony King, Christelle Chamberlan, Maholy Ravaloharimanitra & Tovonanahary Rasolofoharivelo, Wild Conservation 1: 17-24

Reinforcing the isolated Javan langur population in the Coban Talun Protected Forest, East Java, Indonesia

Tony King, Tovonanahary Rasolofoharivelo & Christelle Chamberlan, Wild Conservation 1: 25-30

Featured external publications

Made Wedana, Iwan Kurniawan, Zulfi Arsan, Novianto Bambang Wawandono, Amos Courage & Tony King, Wild Conservation 1: 31-39