They were friends for 14 years and became world famous through a selfie: Park ranger Andre Bauma and mountain gorilla Ndakasi. Last week, the gorilla, who was raised as an orphan baby in the Virunga National Park, died in the presence of her keeper.
“It is with deep sadness that Virunga announces the death of the beloved orphaned mountain gorilla Ndakasi, who has been in the care of the park’s Senkwekwe center for more than ten years,” wrote the national park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on its website. “On the evening of September 26th, after a long illness in which her condition rapidly deteriorated, Ndakasi took her last breath in the loving arms of her carer and lifelong friend Andre Bauma.”
Ranger found Ndakasi in the rainforest in 2007: the two-month-old gorilla baby clung to the lifeless body of its mother, who had been shot by armed militia. Since there were no other family members around, the rangers took Ndakasi to a rescue center to see animal keeper Andre Bauma.
“Andre held the baby close to him all night long and pressed her tiny body tightly to his bare chest to warm and comfort it,” write the operators of the Virunga National Park. Since then, Ndakasi looked at the husband as her surrogate mom.
Ndakasi was too vulnerable to return to the wild. That is why the gorilla lady and the orphaned gorilla Ndeze were brought to the newly founded Senkwekwe center in 2009, where she was able to lead a peaceful life.
In 2019 Ndakasi became world famous through a photo. In a selfie that one of the park rangers posted online, Ndakasi and her buddy Ndeze can be seen in the background: the great apes are casually standing on two legs, with their bellies protruding and a funny expression on their faces. Like humans.
A documentary about the park shows Ndakasi laughing while being tickled by a carer.
“It was Ndakasi’s dear creature and her intelligence that helped me understand the connection between humans and great apes, and why we should do everything in our power to protect them,” says Bauma.
“I am proud to have called Ndakasi my friend. I loved her like a child and her cheerful personality put a smile on my face every time I dealt with her. “