Extraordinary photograph of dying female mountain gorilla in the arms of her human caregiver

This is Ndakasi with her caretaker and lifelong friend Andre Bauma, a park ranger who cared for her.

I don’t know but this might be the moment when Ndakasi died in the arms of Bauma. We are not told that but it seems likely or possible.

Extraordinary photograph of a female ape, Ndakasi, dying embracing her human caregiver Andre Bauma
Extraordinary photograph of a female ape, Ndakasi, dying embracing her human caregiver, Andre Bauma. Photographer unknown but probably another park ranger. Well-done.

Ndakasi died at the young age of 14. Gorillas can live to 50. She developed a prolonged illness which very sadly killed her. She was loved. The park rangers said:

“Ndakasi took her final breath in the loving arms of her caretaker and lifelong friend, Andre Bauma”

It is also said that “She was too vulnerable to be released back into the wild, but she lived a good life and made remarkable connections with the people who cared for her.”

She featured in a selfie-photo in April 2019 that went viral. Bauma had looked after Ndakasi since she was orphaned as a child when her mother was shot dead by militia in a series of gorilla slayings the press said.

Bauma loved Ndakasi. 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.”

He loved her as his own child. She had a cheerful personality and he smiled whenever he met her. This is really sad. Her life started with the pointless killing of her mother leaving her traumatized. And she died young. However, in between those tough moments she had a good life thanks largely to Andre Bauma.

She died at the mountain gorilla orphanage: Senkwekwe, in the Virunga National Park near Mikeno lodge.

Some more from The Times journalist Jane Flanagan

Today, Saturday, October 9, 2021, The Times, has a full featured article about Bauma and Ndakasi. Ndakasi was born into a renowned family of mountain gorillas – the Kabririz. Four of their members were killed in an attack which orphaned Ndakasi. The killing of her mother was put down to the illegal charcoal trade. The former chief warden of the park was charged over the deaths but he was not convicted.

Bauma drip fed little Ndakasi with a spoon. A lot of people thought she would not survive. She contracted pneumonia and needed round-the-clock care in a makeshift oxygen tent. She survived to be an active 65 kg gorilla but she suffered from recurring health problems in the 14 years of her short life. The Times says that gorillas in the wild typically lived to the age of 40.

In 2011 Ndakasi was badly concussed when she fell from a tall tree. She later contracted a gastrointestinal infection which left her malnourished and weak. She died after a prolonged illness which rapidly deteriorated.

Bauma is a very special person. Not far from the Virunga Park where Bauma works is an important military base in the Congo’s war-torn East. Bauma has to reassure young gorillas in his charge who are petrified at the sound of bombs and rockets. He communicates with the apes through gestures and sounds. He says that he is worried about the fighting as are other rangers but he has to let the gorillas know that they are not in danger.

Bauma has never thought about leaving the area despite his colleagues being killed and the death toll rising. On January 6 rangers were shot dead in an ambush by rebels. And in April, 2020, a dozen ranges were killed in the park’s deadliest incident.

Bauma told the BBC that he is prepared to die for the gorillas.

“You must justify why you are on this earth – gorillas justify why I am here; they are my life. So, if it is about dying, I will die for the gorillas.”

As I said, the man is special.


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