Ndakasi, a mountain gorilla who went viral in 2019 when she photobombed her caretaker’s photo, has died, officials said. She was 14.
The gorilla died Sept. 26 after a prolonged illness, according to a statement Tuesday from the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“It is with heartfelt sadness that Virunga announces the death of beloved orphaned mountain gorilla, Ndakasi,” park officials tweeted.
Ndakasi “took her final breath in the loving arms of her caretaker and lifelong friend, Andre Bauma,” the statement said.
The gorilla, born in April 2007, was 2 months old when Virunga rangers found her clinging to the lifeless body of her mother, who had been fatally shot by armed militia hours earlier, the park said in a statement. The older gorilla’s death was part of a series of gorilla family killings.
Bauma took the primate to the park’s Senkwekwe Center, where she had lived for more than a decade, NBC News reported.
The Senkekwe Center is the only facility in the world that looks after orphaned mountain gorillas, according to CTV News.
“It was a privilege to support and care for such a loving creature, especially knowing the trauma Ndakasi suffered at a very young age. It was Ndakasi’s sweet nature and intelligence that helped me to understand the connection between humans and Great Apes and why we should do everything in our power to protect them,” Bauma said in the park’s statement. “I am proud to have called Ndakasi my friend. I loved her like a child and her cheerful personality brought a smile to my face every time I interacted with her. 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.”
Ndakasi had been featured in several television shows and films, but she vaulted to fame with her viral photobomb in 2019.
In the image, Ndakasi is standing next to Ndeze, another female gorilla, CNN reported. The two gorillas strike a relaxed pose behind the caretaker. Park ranger Mathieu Shamavu can be seen standing behind them.
“Another day at the office,” Shamavu wrote alongside the image, which swiftly went viral after being shared on Facebook.