Park Ranger Explains This Selfie

Orphaned gorillas like to mimic humans, he says
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 26, 2019 3:59 AM CDT
Updated Apr 28, 2019 2:00 PM CDT
Park Ranger Explains This Selfie
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.   (Mathieu Shamavu/Virunga National Park via AP)

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, says 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 last 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 says it 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, says Shamavu. "In terms of behavior, they like to mimic everything that is happening (around them), everything we do," Shamavu tells the AP. He says 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." 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," says head caretaker Andre Bauma.

(More mountain gorillas stories.)

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