Powerful, touching, heartbreaking. Those are just a few words to describe the grief and sadness captured in a recent photograph. The photo shows orphaned gorilla, Ndakasi, with her lifelong friend and park ranger, Andre Bauma. In the emotional image, Bauma sits with Ndakasi as she takes her final breath.
Ndakasi, the ‘Selfie’ Gorilla
Ndakasi isn’t your average mountain gorilla. She was famous. In fact, you might remember a photo of her posing with another park ranger just a couple of years ago. In April of 2019, Mathieu Shamavu snapped a pic of himself with Ndakasi and captioned it “Just another day at the office.” As a full-time ranger at Virunga National Park in the Congo, Shamavu gets to see things we can only dream of. One of those things is fabulous posing gorillas.
Ndakasi has always been a character, and she showed emotion on a human level. According to David Buttelmann of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, “an ape’s skill at reading an expression of happiness indicates that they can read meaning in the emotional expressions on human faces, suggesting that despite 6 million years of separate evolution apes and humans share a common emotional language.” We are learning more and more each day about the similarities between apes and ourselves. It’s not surprising that Ndakasi and her park ranger friends had such a strong emotional connection with one another.
A Loving Gorilla is Mourned
Ndakasi is a rescued gorilla. She was only two months old when Virunga rangers discovered her holding onto the body of her lifeless mother who had been gunned down by armed militia just hours before. After spending over a decade in the care of rangers, 14-year-old Ndakasi passed away in the arms of her best friend. According to the park, “our beloved gorilla died following a prolonged illness in which her condition rapidly deteriorated.”
The loving gorilla passed peacefully away while in the arms of Bauma. It was Bauma, who, 14 years earlier, had held the gorilla as an infant closely to him, after she lost her mother.
It was a privilege to support and care for such a loving creature, especially knowing the trauma Ndakasi suffered at a very young age,’ Bauma said. ‘One could say that she took after her mother, Nyiransekuye, whose name means “someone happy to welcome others”Daily Mail
“It was Ndakasi’s sweet nature and intelligence that helped me to understand the connection between humans and Great Apes and why we should do everything in our power to protect them. I am proud to have called Ndakasi my friend. I loved her like a child and her cheerful personality brought a smile to my face every time I interacted with her. She will be missed by all of us at Virunga but we are forever grateful for the richness Ndakasi brought to our lives during her time at Senkwekwe.”Bauma – Daily Mail
Facts and Information
Many wonder why Ndakasi couldn’t be returned to the wild. The reason for this is because she was without a family and didn’t have a tribe of her own. That, coupled with a prolonged period of rehabilitation meant that she was too vulnerable to return to the Congolese forests.
Parts of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda have the last remaining mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. However, in the eastern Congo is where armed forces violently fight one another. This region is home to some of the last mountain gorillas, and it was where Ndakasi was rescued.
Virunga National Park is doing everything it can to protect the natural habitat of these beautiful creatures, but they can’t do it alone. Keeping wildlife safe is one aspect of their job. They also keep visitors safe. According to the Daily Mail, “Virunga’s management has had to take extraordinary measures to keep its visitors safe from the on-and-off fighting in the region – protecting them with a highly trained guard of elite rangers and sniffer dogs, and working closely with communities surrounding the park.”
Virunga is always accepting donations to keep its park open to the public. If you’d like to help, visit their website for more information.
- The Daily Mail – “Farewell old friend: Mountain gorilla who became a worldwide sensation after appearing in a selfie with a ranger dies cradled in the arms of man who rescued her as an infant“ October 6, 2020
- The Premier Daily – “The Gorillas in This Selfie Want to Be Just as Cool as the Man Who Protects Them“ July 20, 2021
- Newsweek – “Begley: New Evidence Primates Read Human Emotions” August 19, 2009
- Virunga National Park