Ndakasi the mountain gorilla, famous for a viral selfie in 2019, has died at the age of 14.
Ndakasi passed away on September 26 from a prolonged illness, according to the Virunga National Park. She died in the arms of her longtime caretaker and friend, Andre Bauma.
Bauma had taken care of Ndakasi since 2007, when she was found at 2 months old clinging to the lifeless body of her mother. She was later taken into the Senkwekwe Center, a facility for orphaned gorillas, where she lived for the next 11 years.
Bauma offered up a statement in her memory. He said, “It was a privilege to support and care for such a loving creature, especially knowing the trauma Ndakasi suffered at a very young age. One could say that she took after her mother, Nyiransekuye, whose name means “someone happy to welcome others.” 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.”
“I am proud to have called Ndakasi my friend,” he continued. “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.”
The pair were featured in Netflix’s Oscar-nominated 2014 documentary Virunga, which focused on the park rangers tasked with protecting the dwindling mountain gorilla population in the violent landscape of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Five years later, Ndakasi rose to internet fame on Earth Day, when a selfie was posted of herself and fellow gorilla Ndeze standing near a park ranger with “cheeky grins.”
Gorillas in the Congo have long been at risk for endangerment due to war, poaching, and habitat destruction. The park rangers in Virunga have been dedicated to protecting the species, even losing their lives in the process. From 2007 to 2021, the gorilla population grew from 720 individuals to an estimated 1,063 — a successful 47%.
Art Daniella Sison