Congo park ranger tells of taking viral selfie with gorillas

In this image taken on Thursday April 18, 2019, Mathieu Shamavu, a ranger and caretaker at the Senkwekwe Center for Orphaned Mountain Gorillas poses for a photo with female orphaned gorillas Ndakazi and Ndeze at the the Senkwekwe Center for Orphaned Mountain Gorillas in Virunga National Park, eastern Congo. Shamavu has described to the Associated Press how he was checking his phone when he noticed two female orphaned gorillas, Ndakazi and Ndeze, mimicking his movements, so he took a picture with them. (Mathieu Shamavu/Virunga National Park via AP)

LONDON — A park ranger in Congo has described how he captured a selfie with two gorillas that went viral.

Mathieu Shamavu, a ranger at Virunga National Park in eastern Congo, said he was checking his phone when he noticed two female orphaned gorillas, Ndakazi and Ndeze, mimicking his movements, so he took a picture with them.

The gorillas look as if they're posing for the camera and when Shamavu posted the picture on social media on Saturday it quickly clocked up thousands of likes and comments.

According to rangers at the sanctuary, Ndakazi and Ndeze were orphaned 12 years ago when their families were killed by poachers.

They were the first orphans to be cared for at the center, which according to Virunga park's management, is the only place in the world dedicated to the care of orphaned mountain gorillas.

As the gorillas arrive in the sanctuary at a young age, they learn from their caretakers, said Shamavu.

"In terms of behavior, they like to mimic everything that is happening (around them), everything we do," Shamavu told The Associated Press.

He said the caretakers at Senkwekwe Mountain Gorilla Orphanage Center try to give the animals as much access as possible to their natural environment, but they inevitably exhibit "almost the same behavior as humans."

Senkwekwe is named after one of the wild silverback gorillas that was killed in Virunga in 2007.

The orphans need constant care, so the rangers live nearby and spend their days with them - feeding them, playing with them, keeping them company.

"Gorilla caretakers with those gorilla orphans, we are the same family," said head caretaker Andre Bauma.

He said without their own relatives nearby, the gorillas treat the rangers as their family.

"They know we are their mum. They are a member of the family. We are their friends," said Bauma.

Virunga is billed as Africa's most biodiverse national park, spanning tropical forests, snow-peaked mountains and active volcanoes.

It's also one of the last bastions of wild mountain gorilla populations. Parks in the mountains of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda have the last remaining mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.

But it's in eastern Congo, an area that has suffered from years of armed conflict.

Virunga's management has had to take extraordinary measures to keep its visitors safe from the on-and-off fighting in the region - protecting them with a highly trained guard of elite rangers and sniffer dogs, and working closely with communities surrounding the park.

After a park ranger was killed by gunmen and three foreign tourists were briefly held captive, the park closed until it could secure the safety of visitors. It reopened in mid-February this year.

But all this costs money, and the state park says it wouldn't be able to survive without private donations from visitors.

Virunga's management hopes the viral gorilla selfie will help boost the park's profile, and encourage more people to contribute to the vital work of conserving the mountain gorillas and their unique natural habitat.

___

AP journalist Khaled Kazziha in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed.

You may also interested in

China's birthrate rises after one-child policy...

Jan 24, 2017

The number of births in China has risen nearly 8 percent in the year after the government loosened...

Some China cities close poultry markets amid bird...

Feb 13, 2017

Several Chinese cities are shutting down their poultry markets in the wake of a bird flu outbreak...

Ex-Hong Kong leader gets 20 months in jail for...

Feb 22, 2017

A former leader of Hong Kong was sentenced Wednesday to 20 months in prison for misconduct after...

Asian stocks lower after Wall Street losses

Mar 8, 2017

Asian stocks have declined after Wall Street fell for a second day following President Donald...

Lewis Hamilton coasts to fifth title at Chinese...

Apr 9, 2017

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton steered clear of a chaotic start to the Chinese Grand Prix and...

About Us

Frontal Report is an emerging leader in all forms of media. We aim to be the leading news brand for readers around the world.

Contact us: sales[at]frontalreport.com

Subscribe Now!