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.
But despite her tragic beginnings, Ndakasi’s story is one of kindness and love.
Not long after Ndakasi had been saved from the forest, she met 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 rain storm 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.
An adorable selfie shared by the park in 2019 captured Ndakasi in the company of those who loved her.
Given the circumstances of Ndakasi’s rescue as a struggling infant, each day of her life was a gift. But, sadly, it came to an early end.
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 took her final breath in the loving arms of her caretaker and lifelong friend, Andre Bauma,” the park wrote.
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.
Caretakers at Virunga National Park’s sanctuary wouldn’t have it any other way.
“There is a bond that ties us together,” Bauma said. “A relationship that is very, very close between the guardians and the gorillas.”