Orphaned Gorilla Whose “Selfie” Went Viral Dies in the Arms of Her Longtime Caretaker

Ndakasi and Andre Bauma by Brent Stirton

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.

Ndakasi was an orphaned mountain gorilla who lived in the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ndakasi as a Baby

Ndakasi in 2008

Orphaned Mountain Gorillas

Ndakasi in 2008

From the time she arrived at 2 months old, she was cared for by Andre Bauma. He also held her as she passed away.

Ndakasi and Andre Bauma

In 2019, she went viral for this “selfie” with another park ranger.

Gorilla Selfie in Democratic Republic of Congo

Photo: Mathieu Shamavu

Her legacy lives on as mountain gorillas receive excellent care and flourish.

Orphaned Gorillas at Senkwekwe Center

Gorilla Caretaker at Virunga National Park

Gorilla Caretaker at Virunga National Park

Orphaned Mountain Gorillas

Virunga National Park: Website | Instagram | Facebook

Photos by Brent Stirton/Virunga National Park except where noted. My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Virunga National Park.

Related Articles:

Inspiring Story of Husband and Wife Wildlife Photographers Who Beat the Odds

Zoo Gorilla Brings Her Baby Over To Meet Mom and Newborn on Other Side of Glass

Photographer Documents Bond Between Last Two Northern White Rhinos and Their Caretakers

Touching Photo of Rescued Gorilla and Her Caretaker Wins ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ Award

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
Become a
My Modern Met Member
As a member, you'll join us in our effort to support the arts.
Become a Member
Explore member benefits

Sponsored Content