How selfies with gorillas attracted world attention to the threat of their extinction?

Ranger Mathieu Shamavu, working in Virunga National Park, (Congo), took a selfie with his wards – two female mountain gorillas.

After the picture was published on Facebook, it literally blew up the Internet. And all because huge monkeys pose for photos like people: they stand on their hind legs and, straightening their backs, look directly at the camera. Mathieu Chamavou posted a picture on social networks to increase awareness of the park, as well as attract global attention to the threat of extinction of mountain gorillas.

The Republic of Congo has been home to many endangered species for many years, such as the forest elephant, chimpanzee, bonobo (pygmy chimpanzee), as well as the plains and mountain gorillas. To protect them, Virunga National Park was founded in 1925, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Moreover, this park has become one of the first protected areas in all of Africa. Now more than half of all mountain gorillas living on earth live in it (there are just over 1,000 of them in the world).

In East Congo, where the national park is located, poaching and animal trafficking, as well as animal hunting for entertainment and food, flourish.

Moreover, mining companies are interested in the natural resources of the region. Therefore, there are 600 rangers in the park whose task is to look after all the animals, as well as protect them from poachers.

Unfortunately, the confrontation between park rangers and poachers is fierce. So, last year 5 rangers were killed in Virung, and more than 130 since 1996. On March 7, 2019, a park employee Freddy Mahamba Muliro was killed while on duty in the central problem sector of the park.

Park Director Emmanuel de Merod then said: “We deeply grieve over the death of ranger Freddy. It is a tragedy that his young life ended in devotion to Virunga. Now, more than ever, his death reveals a real threat to our rangers in Virunga National Park. ”

But despite the risk, park rangers remain faithful to the animals. They are especially sensitive to gorillas, as they get used to them when they are still young. There is a Senkwekwe center in the park, designed specifically to care for young orphaned gorillas from the area.

Captured on a viral photo, the female gorillas, whose names are Ndakazi and Ndeze, also turned out to be orphans.

In July 2007, when their mothers were killed, they were only 2 and 4 months old, respectively. The cubs were brought to Senkwekwe and raised by employees of the reserve, which they now consider their parents. That is why the gorillas in the picture are posing, standing on two legs: they imitate their guardians and try to appear like people. This photo shows how close the gorillas communicate with people.

Unfortunately, recently, without donations from individuals and organizations, Virunge Park and its employees have found it difficult to carry out their work. For example, all park rangers undergo 6-month training to become guardians of animals. But the funds are sorely lacking.

In order to draw attention to the park’s problems and, in particular, to the threat of extinction of mountain gorillas, a photo with the Ndakazi and Ndeze gorillas was published in all official park accounts on social networks. Spectacular photos were liked and reposted by tens of thousands of people, many praised environmentalists and promised to make donations. The excitement attracted the attention of many world media. So the whole world learned about the park and its problems.

Now on the website of Virunga Park a fundraiser has been announced to support the proper functioning of the reserve. And there is no doubt that individuals and organizations will not stand aside.

Orphan gorillas are so accustomed to human contact that they simply cannot live without communicating with park rangers and rangers.