In 2007, rangers from Virunga National Park rescued a 2-month-old gorilla named Ndakasi in the Congolese wilderness. She’d been found clutching the body of her mother, whose life had been cut short by poachers, and was taken to a rescue center where a man held her, keeping her safe and warm; Ndakasi took her final breaths in the arms of the same man before her September .d.eath.
The beloved gorilla was in the care of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo for more than a decade. Ndakasi suffered from a prolonged illness before her death.
The gorilla was just a few months old when armed militia gunned down her mother, according to the park. Rangers couldn’t find any family members nearby, so they took her to a rescue center where she was introduced to “lifelong friend” Andre Bauma.
Andre Bauma, a caretaker at the park’s gorilla orphanage. During the orphaned gorilla’s fragile first night apart from her mother, Bauma never left her side.
“Through a torrential rainstorm that lasted all night, Andre held baby Ndakasi tightly to his bare chest to keep her warm and give her comfort,” the park staff wrote. But thanks to Bauma and the orphanage’s other staff, Ndakasi not only survived the night. In time, she would go on to grow up happy and healthy.
This week, the gorilla’s caretakers announced that Ndakasi had passed away from an illness at age 14. Though it’s heartbreaking to have lost her so young, her last moments reflected a legacy of love.
Ndakasi may be gone, but she won’t soon be forgotten. And the efforts of those who gave her a second chance at a happy life will continue, offering hope to orphaned gorillas like her.
“It was a privilege to support and care for such a loving creature, especially knowing the trauma Ndakasi suffered at a very young age,” Bauma said. “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. 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.”