Donna Air’s daughter Freya Aspinall, 18, shares wild bond with a lion

‘Pure love and trust’: Donna Air’s daughter Freya Aspinall, 18, shares wild bond with a lion as she posts photo of pet cub nibbling her arm

Most teenagers would be terrified to come face to face with a lion, but Freya Aspinall is made of sterner stuff.

The 18-year-old, who spent her childhood at her father Damian’s wildlife parks in Kent, has shared an Instagram photo of her pet lion Azi nibbling her arm.

Freya, whose mother is actress and TV presenter Donna Air, says she has a close bond with the one-year-old after following her father into conservation work.

Wild behaviour: Donna Air's daughter Freya Aspinall, who spent her childhood at her father Damian's wildlife parks, has shared an Instagram photo of her pet lion Azi nibbling her arm

Wild behaviour: Donna Air’s daughter Freya Aspinall, who spent her childhood at her father Damian’s wildlife parks, has shared an Instagram photo of her pet lion Azi nibbling her arm 

‘We had to hand-raise Azi because his mother rejected him,’ she says. ‘From this, I was able to develop a completely natural relationship with him. No training, no taming. Pure love and trust.’

Freya is the only daughter of Damian and Donna, was just 21 when she met and fell in love with the multimillionaire, who was 40 at the time.

They were introduced at a dinner party in 2000 by their mutual friend, former It Girl Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, and went on to have a seven year relationship.

Bond: Freya says she has a close bond with the one-year-old after following her father into conservation work

Bond: Freya says she has a close bond with the one-year-old after following her father into conservation work

Mum: Freya is the only daughter of Damian and Donna, was just 21 when she met and fell in love with the multimillionaire, who was 40 at the time

Mum: Freya is the only daughter of Damian and Donna, was just 21 when she met and fell in love with the multimillionaire, who was 40 at the time

The couple famously hit the headlines when Freya was a baby, announcing they were planning to place their daughter in a gorilla enclosure at Damian’s animal park and allow her to be carried off by the female of the group.

It was a ritual Damian had carried out with his first two daughters, Tansy, 33, and Clary, 30, from his 15-year marriage to Louise Sebag-Montefiore. 

Damian has carried on the legacy of his late father John Aspinall who encouraged close contact between animals and keepers at Kent park Howletts and its sister site Port Lympne.

Damian’s dad John bought Howletts with his gambling winnings in 1956 and moved his family there from central London. 

Working together: Freya has entered the family business, with Damian and Donna backing their daughter's decision to drop out of school and follow him into conservation

Working together: Freya has entered the family business, with Damian and Donna backing their daughter’s decision to drop out of school and follow him into conservation

Natural talent: Freya recently part in a rewilding mission in the Congo and Damian made her the star of his documentary Freya & The Gorillas: An Incredible Rewilding Journey

Natural talent: Freya recently part in a rewilding mission in the Congo and Damian made her the star of his documentary Freya & The Gorillas: An Incredible Rewilding Journey

Following his father’s death, Damian has has managed the parks through the John Aspinall Foundation, a charity named for his father.

Now Freya has entered the family business, with Damian and Donna backing their daughter’s decision to drop out of school and follow him into conservation. 

Freya recently took part in a rewilding mission in the Congo and Damian made her the star of his documentary Freya & The Gorillas: An Incredible Rewilding Journey. 

Established in 1989, the Aspinall Foundation’s gorilla orphanage was the first of its kind in the world, and has rescued over 80 gorillas since then. 

The Foundation has also reintroduced over 70 gorillas back into the wild, including 26 that were raised in its two parts, Port Lympne and Howletts. 

Childhood: The couple famously hit the headlines when Freya was a baby, announcing they were planning to place their daughter in a gorilla enclosure at Damian's animal park

Childhood: The couple famously hit the headlines when Freya was a baby, announcing they were planning to place their daughter in a gorilla enclosure at Damian’s animal park

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