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October 08, 2021

From Viral Selfie to Saddest Photo: Mountain Gorilla Dies in the Arms of Her Carer

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A mountain gorilla whose photobomb became a viral internet sensation in 2019 breathed her last in the warm embrace of her carer and friend. The orphaned gorilla was rescued by Virunga park rangers when she was two months old. 

In a heartbreaking turn of events, selfie star and orphaned mountain gorilla Ndakasi has died at 14 in the arms of her keeper and lifelong friend, Andre Bauma, according to a statement issued by the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

The gorilla took her last breath on September 26 while hugging her caretaker and buddy, Bauma, at the park's Senkwekwe Center, where she had spent nearly a decade. 49-year-old Bauma had rescued Ndakasi when she was but an infant. 

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Ndakasi had been rescued by the Virunga rangers after she was found holding on to the lifeless body of her mother in 2007, who had been shot by the armed militia a few hours before. Bauma expressed his love for the orphaned gorilla in these words: 

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"It was a privilege to support and care for such a loving creature, especially knowing the trauma Ndakasi suffered at a very young age (sic)."

According to Bauma, Ndakasi was just like her mother, Nyiransekuye, whose name meant "someone happy to welcome others." After her rescue, she had been moved to the park's Senkwekwe Center alongside a fellow orphaned gorilla, Ndeze. 

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Soon afterward, the two gorillas became internet stars after their selfie with park ranger Mathieu Shamavu went viral in 2019. The picture was shared by Virunga National Park on social media, and a part of its long and interesting caption read:

"YES, it’s real! Those gorilla gals are always acting cheeky so this was the perfect shot of their true personalities."

The caption further said that people should not be surprised by the way the gorillas were striking a pose for the picture because the majority of primates can stand upright. The viral photo was captured under exceptional circumstances. 

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Ndakasi was born in 2007, and it was the time when mountain gorillas were on the brink of becoming endangered. Her mother had been killed as part of a string of massacres of gorilla species.

A statement issued by the Virunga National Park said that throughout the course of Ndakasi's life, the gorilla species had increased by 47%. In 2007, the total number of individuals was only 720, which has now reached 1,063 after nearly 14 years. 

The orphaned mountain gorilla Ndakasi was not only a selfie sensation, but in her 11 years spent at the park, she starred in various TV shows and movies. However, she rose to fame after her picture went viral on Earth Day 2019. 

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Her caretaker Bauma shared that he was proud to call Ndakasi his friend and loved her like a child for her cheerful personality. He added that interacting with her always brought a smile to his face. Bauma also said:

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"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."

After Ndakasi's tragic death, the Virunga National Park expressed that the series of killings in which she lost her mother has ultimately contributed to significant reforms being put in place for the safekeeping of mountain gorillas. 

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Many netizens have left their deepest condolences and heartwarming comments for Ndakasi. One user wrote: "I am so very sorry. Most sincere condolences to all who knew and loved her. Run Free Sweet Ndakasi (sic)." 

Another one added: "Thank you for helping these poor animals and being there for her, so she wasn't alone, need a world full of people like you, then it would be a much nicer and happier place to be (sic)."  

In addition to gorillas' life being jeopardized, Reuters reported in January that over 200 rangers lost their lives in the park. The Virunga National Park continues to raise awareness regarding the protection of gorillas in their natural habitats for increased life expectancy.

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