Mountain gorilla famed for viral selfie dies in caretaker’s arms

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A mountain gorilla, who gained viral fame by posing for a “cheeky” selfie picture, died in the arms of a park ranger who “loved her like a child”.

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A statement from Virunga National Park said the “beloved” 14-year-old gorilla, named Nadakasi, died on September 26 “after a prolonged illness in which his condition rapidly deteriorated”.

Nadakasi was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo into one of just eight families of mountain gorillas living in Africa’s oldest and most biodiverse national park.


In 2007, only two months old, she was found clinging to her dead mother, who was locked in close quarters in an attack Rangers described as an “execution”, which also killed several members of her family. Had gone.

Their slaughter is believed to have been inspired by the lucrative illegal charcoal trade, to which the gorillas and the protected status of the 1.9 million-acre park were seen as a “hindrance.”

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As Nadakasi is an “orphan”, he is brought to a rescue center in Goma, where he meets Andre Bauma. “Andre held the baby by himself all night, his tiny body tightly to his bare chest for warmth and comfort,” Park said in a statement.

“She survived; however, the trauma of losing her family along with a long period of rehabilitation meant that Nadakashi was too weak to return to the wilderness.”

Soon after its construction in 2009, Ndakasi was transferred to the Senkwekwe Center for Orphan Gorillas, where Mr. Bauma became manager and where Ndakasi lived for more than 11 years.

The gorilla would later appear in the 2014 documentary, Virunga, which highlighted the efforts of Mr Bauma and others to protect the park from many threats – from poaching and violent conflict, to the illegal exploitation of its natural resources.

Speaking to the BBC at the time of the film’s release, Mr Bauma said of Nadakasi: “We shared the same bed, I played with him, I fed him … I can say that I am his mother.”

However, it was in a selfie taken by Senkwakwe ranger Matthew Shamvu in 2019 that Nadakasi and his “partner-in-crime” Ndez stole the show – the image went viral on the internet due to the pair’s characteristic two-legged stance. happened.

“His playful nature reminds the world how much we see ourselves in these animals and is one of the reasons Andre Bauma will miss him dearly,” the park’s statement said.

It added: “Nadakashi embodied the spirit of Virunga and the story of his survival is associated with the park.

“The massacre of her family and other gorillas in 2007 prompted the Congolese authorities to undertake comprehensive institutional and security reforms within the park. This significantly strengthened the protection of Virunga’s mountain gorillas and enabled the conditions that have led to them today. has contributed to the continued recovery of the species.”

During Nadakasi’s life, the global mountain gorilla population – mostly located in the DRC, Uganda and Rwanda – increased from 720 individuals in 2007 to an estimated 1,063 in 2021, Park said.

Although rangers who seek to protect them in Virunga – where a large proportion of the world’s mountain gorillas live – face deadly violence in their efforts, six rangers were killed in armed ambushes in January this year.


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