Life has not always been safe and secure for two female mountain gorillas named Ndakazi and Ndeze, who were both orphaned as babies in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
But thanks to the efforts of the Virunga National Park, both gorillas are living happy, healthy lives — as evidenced by a now-viral photo of the two grown gorillas posing for a selfie alongside their park ranger caretakers, Patrick Sadiki and Mathieu Shamavu.
Shamavu posted a photo that showed the two gorillas standing upright, tall and proud as if they meant business — perhaps the business of becoming Instagram famous.
Shamavu was in the foreground of the photo while his two lady gorillas stood behind him, staring into the camera as if they knew they were being photographed.
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You might have recently seen caretakers Mathieu and Patrick’s amazing selfie with female orphaned gorillas Ndakazi and Ndeze inside the Senkwekwe center at Virunga National Park. We’ve received dozens of messages about the photo. YES, it’s real! Those gorilla gals are always acting cheeky so this was the perfect shot of their true personalities! Also, it’s no surprise to see these girls on their two feet either—most primates are comfortable walking upright (bipedalism) for short bursts of time. Guys, if you shared our gorilla selfie post, please share our Earth Day posts as well! Conserving Virunga’s amazing wildlife is a constant challenge for the Park and our work wouldn’t be possible without your support. Matching funds have been pledged on every donation to the Park today, up to a total of $25,000—giving us the opportunity to raise $50,000 for Virunga! Visit virunga.org/donate or click the link in our bio to get involved and keep sharing our posts! Thank you! *We want to emphasize that these gorillas are in an enclosed sanctuary for orphans to which they have lived since infancy. The caretakers at Senkwekwe take great care to not put the health of the gorillas in danger. These are exceptional circumstances in which the photo was taken. It is never permitted to approach a gorilla in the wild. #gorillaselfie #gorilla #mountaingorilla #mountaingorillaselfie #selfie #earthday #earthday2019 #virunga #virunganationalpark #congo #drcongo #rdc #drc #protecttheplanet #happyearthday #wildlife #wildlifeconservation #conservation #natureconservation
“Those gorilla gals are always acting cheeky so this was the perfect shot of their true personalities,” Virunga National Park wrote on Instagram.
“Also, it’s no surprise to see these girls on their two feet either — most primates are comfortable walking upright (bipedalism) for short bursts of time.”
Ndakazi and Ndeze have grown up in the park and are comfortable interacting with the men who have raised them since they were orphans.
According to Virunga National Park, both gorillas ended up living in the sanctuary after experiencing traumatic losses as infants.
“Another day at the office…” wrote ranger Mathieu Shamavu in his Facebook post, which was shared more than 20,000 times. https://t.co/nShtkbHmxL
— News4JAX (@wjxt4) April 22, 2019
Ndakasi was only two months old when rangers found her clinging to her murdered mother, who had been shot at close range. The baby gorilla was “badly dehydrated, in shock, and very frightened,” according to the website.
Ndeze has a similarly sad story, as her mother, Safari, was also found murdered alongside four other adult gorillas, including Senkwekwe, the dominant silverback of the Rugendo group, in 2007.
His life and death became the inspiration for the gorilla sanctuary park’s namesake, the Senkwekwe Center, where both Ndakasi and Ndeze live now.
As the viral photo began to spread, Virunga park staff were quick to explain that this photo was possible only because these two gorillas have grown up in the sanctuary — a photo like this should never be attempted in the wild.
“We want to emphasize that these gorillas are in an enclosed sanctuary for orphans to which they have lived since infancy,” the caption read.
“The caretakers at Senkwekwe take great care to not put the health of the gorillas in danger. These are exceptional circumstances in which the photo was taken. It is never permitted to approach a gorilla in the wild.”
The stunning photo is just one snapshot of life at Virunga, where the staff works nonstop to protect, preserve and fight for the wildlife in the region, one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet.
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