Ndakasi: The mountain gorilla that touched hearts worldwide


The mountain gorilla that touched hearts worldwide


The mountain gorilla that touched hearts worldwide

By Emily Jerome

Last year, a photo of a mountain gorilla and her caretaker touched hearts worldwide and inspired wildlife protection.

It was around this time last year when a photo of an ailing mountain gorilla seeking comfort from her long-time caretaker went viral. Although the gorilla died shortly after this intimate moment was captured, it touched hearts worldwide.

Ndakasi the mountain gorilla with caretaker
Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images News via Getty Images

Known as Ndakasi, this mountain gorilla was rescued in 2007 at the tender age of two months after her mother was gunned down by armed militants in Virunga National Park located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Park ranger, Andre Bauma, kept the newly orphaned gorilla warm that fateful night by holding her to his bare chest. Bauma continued to care for Ndakasi for the next 14 years at Virunga’s Senkwekwe Center.

The photo serves as a reminder of the sentience of wildlife and an example of how love, care and compassion can exist between species and move us to protect vulnerable wildlife and the spaces they need to thrive.

The state of mountain gorillas

With only 1,000 mountain gorillas remaining in the wild, compassion must be paired with conservation action. Poaching, habitat degradation, climate change and the risk of disease transfer from humans remain the largest threats to mountain gorillas. But, it isn’t all bad news.

In 2018, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species downlisted mountain gorillas from critically endangered to endangered. This positive step forward is partly attributed to the multi-national collaboration between Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC including the signing of the 2015 ‘Treaty on the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration on Wildlife Conservation and Tourism Development.’

Aerial view of deforestation
Photo by richcarey from Getty Images/Canva

By placing nature at the heart of decision-making, biodiversity loss can be stifled, the climate crisis averted and a new way of living in balance with nature can be realized. Stories like Ndakasi’s help to break down the them-and-us barrier and realize that all living beings are just that – living beings. As Bauma said of his life-long friend, Ndakasi, she “helped me to understand the connection between humans and great apes and why we should do everything in our power to protect them.”

How can you help?

1. Be inspired by the 2014 documentary titled Virunga available on Netflix.

2. Learn 5 tips to deepen your personal connection to nature in our blog.

3. Discover how Dr. Julie Andreyve, an artist-activist, researcher and educator in Vancouver, connects with the non-human world in our podcast.

4. Contact your municipal, provincial and federal representatives and tell them why protecting wildlife in Canada is important to you.

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