A mountain gorilla who became famous from a selfie in 2019 has died at the age of 14, online news media CBS reported on Thursday.
“It is with heartfelt sadness that Virunga [National Park] announces the death of beloved orphaned mountain gorilla, Ndakasi, who had been under the care of the Park’s Senkwekwe Center for more than a decade,” the park said, adding that she died in the arms of her caretaker Andre Bauma.
The Virunga National Park, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said that the gorilla died last month after a prolonged illness.
"I loved her like a child and her cheerful personality brought a smile to my face every time I interacted with her," said Bauma.
"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,” he said, adding that it “was a privilege to support and care for such a loving creature.”
When Virunga rangers found Ndakasi, she was only two months old. She was found clinging to the body of her mother who had been shot by armed militia hours earlier, according to the park.
They then took her in and transferred her to a rescue center where she met Bauma, who held the then-baby gorilla against his bare chest, forming an unbreakable bond.
The park said that while the gorilla recovered, she was still too vulnerable to go back into the wild. She was subsequently transferred to the Senkwekwe Center where she lived peacefully for more than 11 years.
Ndakasi is best known for a 2019 selfie of her caretaker where she and another gorilla struck an amusing pose in the background.
According to the park, Ndakasi was born during a time when the global population of mountain gorillas was “fragile and critically endangered.”
Since then, the species has grown by 47 percent.