An unusual selfie taken by a ranger at Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo has helped the Park raise much needed awareness and funds to protect more animals.
The photo, which included two orphaned gorillas – Ndakazi and Ndeze – striking very human-like poses, was taken by ranger Mathieu Shamvu, an anti-poaching guard at Virunga. It went instantly viral around the world.
Upon reaching their fundraising target, Virunga said: “A special thanks to Ndakazi and Ndeze for just being their fun-loving selves and showing the world the magic of Virunga! 🦍🌋🇨🇩”
The photo of the female endangered orphans, which also features caretaker Patrick Sadiki, was taken inside the Senkwekwe center at Virunga National Park.
To those who couldn’t believe it wasn’t photoshopped, Virunga said: “YES, it’s real!”
They explained: “Those gorilla gals are always acting cheeky so this was the perfect shot of their true personalities!”
Virunga said: “It’s no surprise to see these girls on their two feet either — most primates are comfortable walking upright (bipedalism) for short bursts of time.” They revealed the gorilla, which is the largest primate in the world, shares 98% of its DNA with humans.
The Park did caution tourists to not try and recreate the shot, and said it was taken under “exceptional circumstances”.
Ndakazi and Ndeze have lived in this enclosed orphan sanctuary since they were infants.
“The caretakers at Senkwekwe take great care to not put the health of the gorillas in danger. It is never permitted to approach a gorilla in the wild,” said Virunga.
Ranger Mathieu said: “I am very happy to be Star of the moment, but especially to have honored my country especially the ICNN (Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature) and the VIRUNGA Park.” (He actually said: “Je suis contant d’etre Star du moment, mais surtout d’avoir honore mon pays en particulier l’CCN et le Parc DES VIRUNGA”)
Virunga, which is Africa’s oldest national park and the continent’s most biologically diverse protected area, has suffered violence and attacks in the past, as featured in award-winning documentary ‘Virunga’. Most recently the park was closed for nine months, until February this year, after nine people were killed (and a ranger in a neighbouring province was murdered in the past week).
So the rangers are truly putting their lives at risk to protect those of the animals.
Citizen movement Fight for Change described the viral photo as showing the face of “these unsung heroes who fight every day to preserve Virunga Park and our other parks, to protect our precious ecosystems.”
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You might have recently seen caretakers Mathieu and Patrick’s amazing selfie with female orphaned gorillas Ndakazi and Ndeze inside the Senkwekwe center at Virunga National Park. We’ve received dozens of messages about the photo. YES, it’s real! Those gorilla gals are always acting cheeky so this was the perfect shot of their true personalities! Also, it’s no surprise to see these girls on their two feet either—most primates are comfortable walking upright (bipedalism) for short bursts of time. Guys, if you shared our gorilla selfie post, please share our Earth Day posts as well! Conserving Virunga’s amazing wildlife is a constant challenge for the Park and our work wouldn’t be possible without your support. Matching funds have been pledged on every donation to the Park today, up to a total of $25,000—giving us the opportunity to raise $50,000 for Virunga! Visit virunga.org/donate or click the link in our bio to get involved and keep sharing our posts! Thank you! *We want to emphasize that these gorillas are in an enclosed sanctuary for orphans to which they have lived since infancy. The caretakers at Senkwekwe take great care to not put the health of the gorillas in danger. These are exceptional circumstances in which the photo was taken. It is never permitted to approach a gorilla in the wild. #gorillaselfie #gorilla #mountaingorilla #mountaingorillaselfie #selfie #earthday #earthday2019 #virunga #virunganationalpark #congo #drcongo #rdc #drc #protecttheplanet #happyearthday #wildlife #wildlifeconservation #conservation #natureconservation
Nous aimons ce métier ce pourquoi nous protégeons ces animaux que vive la conservation de la nature pic.twitter.com/EMNQWy2hHw
— Mathieu@idjwi ma priorité (@MunguikoShamavu) January 14, 2018
J'aime bien la Nature pic.twitter.com/6KOboVM74a
— Mathieu@idjwi ma priorité (@MunguikoShamavu) January 26, 2019