A 14-year-old mountain gorilla who became viral and famous on the internet for a selfie photo, named Ndakasi, has reportedly died after years of deteriorating health conditions while in the arms of the caretaker that rescued her when she was only two months old.
Ndakasi became viral in 2019 after posing for a selfie captured by a ranger, which garnered widespread support and affection from people worldwide. The Virunga National Park located in the Democratic Republic of Congo was the one that reported the mountain gorilla's death last month after years of battling illness.
14-Year-Old Selfie Star Mountain Gorilla Dies
In a statement, the park said they expressed with heartfelt sadness the passing of the beloved orphaned mountain gorilla who spent more than a decade under the care of the Park's Senkwekwe Center. Authorities added that Ndakasi died while being held by Andre Bauma, her caretaker who was also the one that saved her when she lost her family to an armed militia.
"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," Bauma said, adding that it was a privilege he was able to care and support such a loving animal, CBS News reported.
When Ndakasi was only two months old, Bauma found her still clinging to her mother's dead body, who was killed by an armed militia. Later in 2019, Ndakasi and another gorilla, Ndeze, rose to online fame after posing for a selfie taken by a ranger.
The man later posted the image on Instagram, where it immediately went viral after showing himself, Mathieu Shamavu, and Ndakasi, looking over her shoulder with her chin down and expressing a just-another-day look. Ndeze, on the other hand, leaned forward to try and get into the shot of the two.
The image also showed another ranger at the back looking intensely at the group who were posing for the photograph. In a caption, the park confirmed that the photo was indeed real and not photoshopped in any way, the New York Times reported.
Rescued From a Young Age
Park authorities deemed Ndakasi to be too vulnerable to remain in the wild and decided to transfer her to the Senkwekwe Center. The area was an orphanage for mountain gorillas in the park. Ndakasi spent 11 years of her life before succumbing to her illness.
Before her viral photograph in 2019, Ndakasi rose to fame after being featured in various films and documentaries. The famous selfie of the mountain gorilla and her friend received nearly 100,000 likes on the social media platform.
The Virunga National Park considered Ndakasi's life as a symbol of survival for her race which was once considered endangered. There were only an estimated 720 mountain gorillas in the year that the selfie star was born. But in 2021, authorities estimated the number to have grown to more than 1,000, USA Today reported.