Ndakasi, an orphaned mountain gorilla who went viral in 2019 after posing for a selfie with her caretaker, has passed away aged 14 due to an illness last month.

The Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo released a statement on Tuesday.

”It is with heartfelt sadness that Virunga 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.

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

In 2007, Ndakasi was two months old when Virunga rangers stumbled across her holding on to her deceased mother, who was shot and killed by armed militia.

Baby Ndakasi was then taken to a rescue center in Goma, which is where she first met Bauma, who became her caretaker for over a decade.

“All night long, Andre held the baby close to him, keeping her tiny body tightly against his bare chest for warmth and comfort. She survived; however, the trauma of losing her family coupled with a long period of rehabilitation meant that Ndakasi was too vulnerable to return to the wild,” the park said.

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The park also noted that the center is “the only one of its kind” to care for orphaned mountain gorillas.

Ndakasi appeared in other media features, such as a documentary on Virunga Park.

However, on 2019, the camera-ready gorilla was seen worldwide after a selfie of her with Bauma and fellow gorilla, Ndeze, was widely circulated on Earth Day.

Bauma also provided a statement that spoke on how honoured he was to support Ndakasi in her lifetime as “she will be missed,” and he was proud to call her a “friend” and “loved her like a child.”

“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,” Bauma said, in part.

Virunga also noted that Ndakasi was born during a tumultuous time for the population of mountain gorillas globally.

But measures innate by Congolese authorities to help protect the species afford a nearly 50 per cent increase in the mountain gorilla population.

However, steps were taken by Congolese authorities to protect the species has afforded a 47 per cent increase “from 720 individuals in 2007 to an estimated 1,063 in 2021” throughout Ndakasi’s life.

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