Just a casual day at the office has a whole different meaning when your job is to protect the gorillas in Virunga National Park. A worker snapped a gorilla selfie with two of the animals he takes care of daily that quickly went viral. It’s clear in the photo that the animals want to be just as cool as their caretaker.
The Viral Gorilla Selfie
Mathieu Shamavu is a full-time ranger at Virunga National Park in the Congo. His job is to protect the population of gorillas that call the park home from poachers. (1)
While on the job in April 2019, he snapped a gorilla selfie with two of the mountain gorillas when they struck a rather human-like pose. He captioned the photo “Just another day at the office”. (1)
The gorillas in the photo are Ndakazi and Ndeze. The female pair were both orphaned at the hands of poachers when they were young. They spent part of their lives at the Senkwekwe Center, a facility at the park for gorillas going through tough times. (1)
According to park director Innocent Mburanumwe, their upright pose suggests that they are watching their human caretakers closely and learning to act like them. (1)
The park reposted the selfie on its Instagram page. In the caption, they stated this:
“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.” (2)
Looking at the photo, some may be concerned that the gorillas seem so comfortable around humans. Called “habituation”, this is actually a very good thing, as it allows researchers to conduct detailed research on the species. This research helps the park better protect its most endangered inhabitants. (3)
The process of habituation, however, is a very slow one. It is completed over two to three years with daily visits from rangers and researchers, or until the gorilla is comfortable having humans around them. (3)
Virunga National Park
Located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Virunga National Park is Africa’s first-ever national park and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Established in 1925, their goal has been to protect the vulnerable gorilla population from poachers and other threats. Currently, there are only about 1000 mountain gorillas left in the wild. About one-third of them live in Virunga. (3)
The park is also home to over one thousand species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. (3) Some of their other most prominent animals include (3):
Not only do they protect animals, but they are also dedicated to making a better life for the four million people who live under one day’s walk to the borders of the park. (3)
They have a team of 700 rangers made up of local men and women who guard the more than 3,000 square-mile park and its inhabitants. Each day, these brave people risk their own lives to protect the endangered mountain gorillas. (3)
Sustainability at Its Core
Virunga is committed to sustainability. To achieve this, they focus on three primary areas (3):
- Sustainable agriculture and fisheries
The park actively works to create jobs for the local people to help end the cycle of poverty in their region. (3)
How You Can Help
There are several ways you can help support Virunga National Park and its fight to protect the mountain gorillas.
You may also visit the park to see what they do each day in person. There are a variety of accommodation options for you, as well as treks and packages to choose from.
- “The Gorillas in This Selfie Want to Be Just as Cool as the Man Who Protects Them.” Tree Hugger. Christian Cotroneo. February 05, 2021.
- “Welcome to Africa’s oldest National Park.” Virunga