The world has lost another bright light with the death of orphaned mountain gorilla Ndakasi. Ndakasi, who had lived at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo since she was 2 months old, shot to fame in 2019 when her “selfie” with a park ranger went viral. After a prolonged illness that progressed quickly, she passed away in the arms of her dear friend and long-time caretaker Andre Bauma at the end of September 2021.
It was a full-circle moment for the duo, who met as soon as Ndakasi was rescued in 2007. She was just 2 months old when she was found by Virunga rangers clinging to the lifeless body of her mother, who had been killed by an armed militia. The rangers brought her to safety and it was Andre who stayed with her the entire night. Holding her close to his chest for warmth, that was the moment their bond began. It's a bond that continued up until Ndakasi's last breath.
Ndakasi, who lived with other orphaned mountain gorillas at the park's Senkwekwe Center, was full of life and charm. Her sweet nature was captured in documentaries and, in 2019, she went global. Her “selfie” was shared on Earth Day and became a sensation. In the photo, she's seen standing with her gorilla friend Ndeze and smiling at the camera as park ranger Mathieu Shamavu snapped the picture.
With her death, Ndakasi reminds us how important it is to protect Virunga's mountain gorillas. Fortunately, since she was orphaned, important security measures have been taken and the park can now say that the its population has grown by 47% since 2007. Still, when one looks at the heartbreaking image of Ndakasi and Andre as she's passing to the other side, it's impossible not to be reminded of how precious life is.
“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,” said Andre in a prepared statement. “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.”
If you are interested in helping support the work they are doing at the Senkwekwe Center and Virunga National Park, they are accepting donations in Ndakasi's memory.