Park ranger Mathieu Shamavu has an incredibly important and difficult job. Shamavu works at the mountain gorilla orphanage in Virunga National Park, where he helps care for young gorillas who lost their parents to poaching. Shamavu protects these gorillas from poachers who want to harm them, and he also gives them lots of love and care.
While Shamavu loves all the gorillas at the orphanage, he has become particularly close with two female gorillas: Ndakazi and Ndeze.
Both of these gorillas sadly lost their parents in July 2007, when they were just babies. The park rangers rescued them and brought them to the orphanage, where they bonded with each other. They also quickly bonded with Shamavu.
“I’m still close to them and they feel good,” Shamavu told The Dodo.
In April 2019, Shamavu posted a cute selfie with Ndakazi and Ndeze.
The photo quickly went viral—everyone loved the way the gorillas were standing upright. They also loved the adorable expressions on the two gorillas’ faces. Some people accused Virunga National Park of faking the photo, but they quickly set the record straight on their Facebook page:
“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.”
Virunga National Park also used this photo as an opportunity to remind people not to approach gorillas in the wild:
“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.”
This isn’t the first time a photo of a ranger and a gorilla at Virunga National Park has gone viral.
In 2014, a photo of a gorilla going for a piggyback ride on a ranger’s back also made its way around the internet. This adorable photo shows how much love the gorilla has for his ranger buddy.
The rangers at Virunga National Park are incredibly dedicated to their jobs, which are often difficult and dangerous. In 2018 alone, five rangers were killed in the park, and 130 rangers have been killed since 1996. These rangers believe that these gorillas are a cause worth fighting for.
“They’re absolutely wonderful animals. They have all the qualities of us as humans, but very few of our failings,” head ranger Emmanuel de Merode told CNN.
Rangers like Shamavu do an incredible job at keeping these gorillas safe from those who wish them harm! If you’d like to see more photos of the gorillas at the orphanage, check out Virunga National Park’s Instagram and Facebook pages. If you’d like to help the rangers care for these adorable gorillas, consider donating to Virunga National Park.
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h/t: Bored Panda