- A gorilla who posed in a viral Earth Day “selfie” in 2019 died last month at Virunga National Park.
- Ndakasi took her final breath in the arms of her longtime caretaker who rescued her as an infant.
- “I loved her like a child and her cheerful personality brought a smile to my face,” Andre Bauma said.
An orphaned mountain gorilla who went viral in 2019 while posing for a selfie with her caretaker, has died at the age of 14.
Ndakasi succumbed to a prolonged illness late last month, according to a statement from the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Tuesday.
“It is with heartfelt sadness that Virunga announces the death of beloved orphaned mountain gorilla, Ndakasi, who had been under the care of the Park’s Senkwekwe Center for more than a decade,” the statement said.
“Ndakasi took her final breath in the loving arms of her caretaker and lifelong friend, Andre Bauma,” it added.
Ndakasi was only two months old in 2007 when Virunga rangers found her clinging to her dead mother, who had been shot by armed militia. The infant gorilla was taken to a rescue center in Goma where she first met Bauma, who would become her caretaker for more than a decade.
“All night long, Andre held the baby close to him, keeping her tiny body tightly against his bare chest for warmth and comfort,” the park said.
Though Ndakasi survived, she was deemed too vulnerable to be returned to the wild, and was transferred along with a fellow orphaned gorilla to Senkwekwe Center inside Virunga National Park. The center is the only one of its kind in the world to look after orphaned mountain gorillas, according to the park.
“She went on to live a peaceful life with her caretakers and other orphaned mountain gorillas for over 11 years,” the park’s obituary said.
Ndakasi was featured in several media projects, including a documentary on Virunga. But the photogenic gorilla reached the masses in 2019, after a “selfie” of her with another gorilla and Bauma went viral on Earth day.
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“Their playful nature was a reminder to the world of how much we see ourselves in these animals and it’s one of the reasons Andre Bauma will miss her so dearly,” the park said.
Bauma said it was a privilege to support and care for Ndakasi throughout her life and their friendship helped him understand the connection between humans and Great Apes.
“I loved her like a child and her cheerful personality brought a smile to my face every time I interacted with her,” Bauma said. “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.”
According to Virunga, Ndakasi was born during a dangerous time for the global population of mountain gorillas. However, steps taken by Congolese authorities to protect the species has led to a nearly 50% increase in mountain gorillas over the course of Ndakasi’s life, Virunga said.