A mountain gorilla who became a global celebrity after posing for a picture with a park ranger died in the arms of her ‘lifelong buddy’ who rescued her as a baby.
In a terrible moment inside the Virunga National Park in eastern Congo, orphaned Ndakasi was seen drawing her final breath while being hugged by her carer Andre Bauma, 49.
Ndakasi, who died at the age of 14, was found clinging to the lifeless body of her mother, who had been murdered down by armed militia hours before, by Virunga rangers when she was only two months old.
She was later transferred to the park’s Senkwekwe Center with a fellow orphaned gorilla Ndeze where the pair rose to internet fame when they appeared in a selfie with park ranger Mathieu Shamavu in 2019.
But after more than a decade of care at the Senkwekwe Centre, the ‘beloved’ gorilla died following a ‘prolonged illness in which her condition rapidly deteriorated’, a statement from the park said.
Ndakasi died on 26 September in the arms of Bauma, who, 14 years earlier, had held the gorilla as an infant closely to him, keeping her tiny body tightly against his chest for warmth and comfort, after she was rescued following her mother’s death.
In the photograph of Ndakasi’s final breath, the gorilla is seen leaning her head on Bauma’s chest while he holds her.
Regarding the beloverd gorilla, Bauma said:
“‘It was a privilege to support and care for such a loving creature, especially knowing the trauma Ndakasi suffered at a very young age,’ ‘One could say that she took after her mother, Nyiransekuye, whose name means “someone happy to welcome others”.’
He went on to say: “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.”