A mountain gorilla who once went viral for cheeky selfie dies in the arms of caretaker – USA TODAY

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A mountain gorilla who once went viral for a selfie has died at 14.

Ndakasi died on Sept. 26 after battling a prolonged illness and in the arms of her caretaker, according to a statement from the Virunga National Park.

She was found in 2007 by Virunga rangers at 2-months-old clinging to the lifeless body of her mother who was killed by armed militia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The rangers decided to rescue the gorilla after none of her family members were in the area. That evening, she met Andre Bauma, who would later become her caretaker and lifelong friend, according to the statement. 

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“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 in the statement. 

After the trauma sustained by the death of her mother, it was determined she was too vulnerable in the wild and was transferred to the Senkwekwe Center, an orphanage for mountain gorillas in the park, where she lived for 11 years until her death.

According to the statement, Ndakasi was featured in films and documentaries before going viral on Earth Day in 2019 when she and another gorilla photobombed a photo of Bauma that garnered almodt 100,000 likes on Instagram. 

Ndaksai and another orphaned gorilla, Ndeze, were both standing on their feet behind Bauma looking straight into the camera lens “with cheeky grins.”

The Virunga National Park said her life was a symbol of survival for the once endangered species. In the year she was born, mountain gorillas had a population of 720, according to the park.

That number is estimated to have grown to more than 1,000 in 2021.

“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,” Bauma said in a statement.

“I loved her like a child and her cheerful personality brought a smile to my face every time I interacted with her.”

Follow reporter Asha Gilbert @Coastalasha. Email: agilbert@usatoday.com.

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A mountain gorilla who once went viral for cheeky selfie dies in the arms of caretaker – USA TODAY

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