The Gorilla, Ndakasi, Leaves This World in the Arms of her Carer

This image made the whole world cry. Virunga Park ranger Andre Bauma holds the gorilla that he himself rescued, raised, and protected for 14 years as she takes her last breath. Ndakasi.
The Gorilla, Ndakasi, Leaves This World in the Arms of her Carer
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

If there’s one thing that Ndakasi knew in her 14 short years of life in the Virunga National Park (the Democratic Republic of the Congo), it was love. In fact, this mountain gorilla was raised in the arms of the same man who, just recently, held her on his lap as she took her last breath. It was a painful exercise for Andre Bauma who had boundless affection for the gorilla.

As a matter of fact, this beautiful animal was, in effect, a part of him, a piece of his own history. He saved Ndakasi from certain death when she was only two months old.  When you see the image captured just before she died, you can’t but fail to think of the qualities of gratitude, complicity, and attachment. Furthermore, a certain sadness, as, without a doubt she died before her time.

Indeed, gorillas usually have a life expectancy of 35 to 40 years. However, the truth is, although parks and reserves are the only way for them to remain safe from poachers, they’re not the gorillas’ natural habitat. In fact, these animals really need to be in the forests, in their natural environment, with their social groups. Ndakasi fell ill at an early age and nothing could be done to stop her illness.

This image, now found widely on social media both moves us and invites us to reflect. That’s because, as humans, we’re often seen as the figures capable of annihilating entire species of animals. However, as this image shows, we’re also able to protect and care for them.

Keeper with the gorilla Ndakasi

The gorilla Ndakasi, the girl of the mountains

Andre Bauma has spent half his life working in the gorilla sanctuary in Virunga National Park, in the ever-troubled Congo. This environment was created in 1925 and is currently one of the most important and beautiful tourist enclaves in central Africa. So much so that it was declared a World Heritage Site in 1979.

It’s home to about a third of the thousand remaining mountain gorillas in the world. This has been and continues to be, no easy achievement. Indeed, groups of hunters are frequently to be found in the area. As a matter of fact, it’s fairly common for rangers to be ambushed and killed from time to time. It goes without saying that they have a hard life and are extremely courageous.

As a matter of fact, without these committed men, this species would’ve been extinct by now. However, today, the figures are encouraging. Because, in 2007, they had 720 gorillas, and right now they have around 1,063.  Sadly, Ndakasi is no longer one of them…

She was smart, unique, and special…

Andre Bauma described the gorilla Ndakasi as his most special and intelligent girl. Indeed, it’s hardly surprising that each ranger has their “favorite”. Ndakasi was most certainly Andre’s, this gorilla that he rescued when she was only two months old.

It was in June 2007, during torrential rains that Andre found her hugging the lifeless body of her mother, who’d been brutally murdered by poachers. He gently took her from her mother and carried her against his own chest while covering her with his jacket. Andre gave her constant care in those first months and years.

“Ndakasi was different from the others. She was a very intelligent gorilla who loved to play. She was fascinated by everything human and sometimes even believed that she was too.”

-Andre Bauma-

Keeper with the gorilla Ndakasi

Ndakasi, a gorilla on social media

We’ve known about the gorilla, Ndasaki, since 2019. No doubt you remember the image of a ranger taking a selfie with two gorillas posing behind him. They photobombed his selfie. Their humanized and complicit attitude on camera captivated us all. These gorillas were Ndakasi and her friend Ndeze, another orphaned gorilla just like her, who lived happily at the Senkwekwe Center in Virunga Park.

In that photo, both animals “posed” with their caretakers. However, it was Ndakasi who appeared to have a knowing smile and a more affable and even humanized expression than her companion. Because Ndakasi, as Andre rightly points out, was special and unlike any other ape. Her presence enriched the others in a remarkable way.  Indeed, she was bright, funny, and extremely close to Andre.

As a matter of fact, this mountain gorilla came to star in several documentaries. In one of them, she appears to be “laughing” out loud while her caregiver tickles her. Indeed, she captivated the camera and enchanted anyone who shared time with her.

All of us in Virunga will miss her, but we will be eternally grateful for the wealth that Ndakasi brought into our lives during her time at Senkwekwe.

Virunga National Park, a special place

The story of the gorilla Ndakasi should make us deeply reflect. Without a doubt, the presence of human beings can be, at times, the most adverse for our ecosystems and natural environments. Poaching is wiping out unique and wonderful species from Earth. Likewise, the armed conflicts suffered by countries such as the Congo also have a violent impact on people.

Virunga National Park is one of the most important settings in central Africa. It’s not only home to a third of all the remaining mountain gorillas in the world. In fact, in this land, there are a thousand species of unique beings – mammals, amphibians, birds, reptiles…

However, the most shocking thing is that four million people affected by armed conflicts live on the outskirts of the park. In fact, this area is a refuge for all who flee, need protection, and want to leave their past behind.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.