Ndakasi , Orphaned Virunga gorilla dies At 14

Ndakasi , Orphaned Virunga gorilla dies At 14

Ndakasi , the mountain gorilla that featured in one viral photo standing with her caretaker in 2019, passes on at the age of 14. Ndakasi was a female orphaned mountain gorilla living in the Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage situated in the compound of the Mikeno lodge. The Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage is the world’s only gorilla orphanage that cares for those gorillas that have been hurt or left parentless by the poachers.

Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage Center is a home of the orphaned mountain gorillas This is the facility that harbors orphaned gorillas that lost parents in the wars of Congo, due to poaching or are hurt and gives the gorillas a second chance at life. This center has a skilled and passionate team that cares for these animals and is dedicated to seeing the center growing to a bigger home. The team has vet doctors, housekeepers, chefs, and more skilled staff.

The Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage Center was named after the silverback gorilla that was killed in 2007 along with 3 other family members of the Rugendo gorilla family in Virunga national Park leaving behind 2 orphans that were Ndakasi and Ndeze who were forced to move to Goma for shelter. Park rangers were alerted of these gorillas when they took over authority of the park again in 2009. Goma city was nothing like staying in their natural habitat as the city is crowded, noisy and has little or no vegetation making it hard for the orphan gorillas to survive thus the idea of setting up the center to take care of these animals.

Ndakasi had been long battling an illness and finally gave in on the 26th of September 2021.The caretaker of Ndakasi was in her company as she took her last breath. The Ndakasi had been staying at the Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage in the Virunga national park for over a decade. It was with great sadness announcing the death of the beloved Ndakasi.


Ndakasi , Orphaned Virunga gorilla dies At 14
Orphaned Gorilla Famous for Selfies with Rangers

Ndakasi was cared for and had a strong bond with her caretaker Andre Bauma in whose arms she breathed her last. Ndakasi was one among the many orphaned gorillas that are being taken care of at the Senkwekwe center. The Virunga national park managed to take a last minute photo of Ndakasi in the arms of her caretaker shortly before she gave in.

Ndakasi had stayed at the Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage for most of her life as she was rescued from the body of her dead mother when she was only 2months old. Her mother was said to have died from a cross fire of militia and Ndakasi was lucky to be found early enough by the rangers. She was still too young and vulnerable to survive in the wild so she was brought in to join the other orphaned gorillas with which she lived with in harmony.

Bauma spoke so fondly of the late Ndakasi and referred to her as a loving, sweet and intelligent girl. He also mentioned he was privileged to work closely with Ndakasi and the other orphaned gorillas. Ndakasi had suffered a traumatic experience when her mother was killed as a baby gorilla but Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage gave her another chance. He also mentioned Ndakasi helped him fully understand the relationship between the humans and the mountain gorillas and went further to emphasize the need to protect these apes.

Bauma had much to say about “his friend/ his child” as he refered to her. He watched her grow and enjoyed her cheerful nature and this always brought a smile to his face each time they spent time together. Ndakasi will surely be missed by Bauma and the entire center and the center is very grateful for the joy and moments spent at the Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage.

Ndakasi was quite a famous gorilla as she featured in a number of television shows and short films on the mountain gorilla. She once featured in a documentary known as Virunga. Her popularity status fully rose after the photo of her standing behind her ranger posing in 2019. In this photo, Ndakasi stood tall and proud with another gorilla at the orphanage called Ndeze. They posed so elegantly as if they knew what exactly to do. They posed with their feet wide apart while the second gorilla leant forward to share the moment too.

The two gorillas posed with a ranger guide who is known by the names Mathieu Shamavu and he posted the photo on his facebook page with a caption saying “Another day at the office” and it suddenly went viral as it was quite an interesting one.

Ndakasi was born in 2007, a year where the mountain gorillas were still list among the critically endangered species on the IUCN species list. The mountain gorilla numbers have since grown to more than 1,063 individuals elevating them to the endangered species list as there has been a 47% increase in numbers. Ndakasi’s mother was shot in one of the series of the massacres of the gorilla families in the park.

Ndakasi death will surely be felt for a long time at the center however this was a foreseen event as the mountain gorillas are known to thrive best in their wild habitat and this is also where their life expectancy is best achieved. Ndakasi will be missed at the Senkwekwe center and the entire Virunga but will forever be in our hearts.


The Senkwekwe gorilla Orphanage harbors over 6 mountain gorillas since the orphanage started and these include the following;

Ndakasi, The Ndakasi is a fourteen old female gorilla that survived the massacre of the Rugendo group in 2007. Rugendo gorilla group was under the leadership of Senkwekwe silverback who was killed during the massacre and left Ndakasi and Ndeze gorillas. By then the Senkwekwe Gorilla orphanage was not complete therefore the gorillas were first taken in a house in Goma town. The house was not spacious and was difficult to maintain in terms of hygiene.

Ndakasi , Orphaned Virunga gorilla dies At 14
Famous ‘Photobomb’ Gorilla, Ndakasi

Maisha, Maisha is another gorilla that was orphaned at Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage. The name Maisha means “life” and she was the first gorilla orphan to be received at the center. The female gorilla was born in 2001 at the time when the park was being used as a hide-out area for the rebels in Congo and during this period there was rampant poaching and deforestation. Maisha was taken captive by poachers into a cave in Rwanda in 2004. When the staff of Volcanoes national park heard the rumors they rescued the gorilla and she was in poor health, the gorilla doctors took care of her and when Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage was completed, Maisha was transferred from Rwanda to the orphanage and by then she was 9 years old. The Centre had no dominant silverback and since Maisha was the oldest gorilla she kept order among other members. Maisha used to feed on maize and other hard things where she was kidnapped and due to the fact that she was not familiar with the daily meals she started developing diarrhea and low appetite that persisted hence leading to her death.

Matabishi, Matabishi is Senkwekwe’s only male mountain gorilla. Since his arrival in 2013, he has continually grown in both competency and stature, leading to his natural self-proclamation as the group’s dominant silverback.this is a young male that was rescued in 2010. Matabishi was found abandoned in a corn field near the park boundary and it’s believed that the poachers left him there out of fear that they would be arrested by the park rangers. Matabish was taken care of by Maisha gorilla by carrying him on her back and protecting him from other stubborn gorillas.

Kaboko, this is a male gorilla that was rescued trapped in a snare which was set up by poachers, the snare caused a deep wound on the right hand and required amputation. Kaboko was a playful gorilla but suffered from gastrointestinal problems which lead to his death. The male gorilla died at the age of five in 2012 because during this period there was intense fighting between the government and the rebels.  The gorilla doctors at that time were in Rwanda treating other gorillas and unable to provide aid to Kaboko.

Yalala, this is a female gorilla that once belonged to Kabirizi Gorilla family in Virunga national park. The gorilla was found lying on her back after being caught in a snare that was set up by poachers. Her family members tried possible ways to rescue her but all in vein therefore she was abandoned to die in the snare. Yalala was later rescued by rangers and her foot was badly damaged by the snare and needed immediate amputation.

Ndeze, Ndeze is the clear leader. She was the first to make peace with Maisha, all the while seeking to protect her frightened younger sibling. this is a ten year old female that was rescued with Ndakasi during the 2007 massacre. The gorilla was found clinging to the breast of her dead mother safari and was taken to live in a house in Goma town together with Ndakasi. The two gorillas were later transferred from the house to Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage when it was completed.

Ndakasi , Orphaned Virunga gorilla dies At 14
Ndakasi Gorilla



This gorilla orphanage is visited all time throughout the year by travellers who go for gorilla trekking safaris and tours in Virunga National Park, the chimpanzee trekkers, those who carry out nature walks as well as those who hike mountains such as Mountain Nyiragongo and among other activities. The Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage is a great add on activity which can be done after mountain gorilla trekking and thus attaining gorilla habituation experience with the mountain gorillas.

Thus the center can also be visited by the travelers who might stay in the Mikeno Lodge since the distance to the orphanage center is too close

A visit to Senkwekwe gorilla orphanage gives you an opportunity to interact with the gorillas in captivity by comparing their lifestyle and behaviors with the gorillas in the wild. Visitors who wish to contribute to the success of the orphanage can make donations or sponsor a gorilla and this is done through contacting Virunga national park or getting in touch with a trusted tour Company such as Explore Rwanda Tours, Focus East Africa Tours as Achieve Global Safaris.


Gorilla Trekking

Gorilla Trekking in Virunga National Park can be done by a maximum of eight people who visit a gorilla family per while spending one hour of experience with these apes. some of the gorilla families in Virunga National park like the Bageni gorilla group, Rugendo group, Mapuwa gorilla group, Munyaga gorilla group among others.


The park is a birder’s paradise given the fact that it has over 700 bird species some of which are endemic to the Albertine Rift, and also the park as well and the others are migratory species which will give you the perfect opportunity to see the different species of birds. Among the bird species that can be seen while in the park include; Ruwenzori turaco, grey throated barbet, narrow tailed sterling and the African Fish Eagle, the blue turaco, Ross’s turaco, coqui Francolin, long-tailed cisticola, bubbling cisticola, Miombo wren warbler, Chubb’s cisticola. 

Chimpanzee Trekking

Chimpanzee trekking in Virunga National park was introduced in 2014 by Frankfurt Zoological Society. Chimpanzees are close to human sharing about 98% DNA just like the way mountain gorillas do. Chimpanzee habituation can also be carried out in the park to ensure that you have an amazing time while on your Virunga National Park safaris.  Therefore you can participate in the chimpanzee habituation activity while you visit Virunga National Park. With chimpanzee habituation in the park, you will go with the habituation team to participate in the habituation process whereby you will see the team how it trains the chimpanzee groups on how to get accustomed to human presence. which is a fun experience because unlike chimpanzee trekking that takes only one hour, chimpanzee habituation takes as long as the habituation team takes to train the chimpanzees.

Mountain Climbing 

While at Virunga National Park, you will have a chance to hike some of the world’s most active volcanoes for example Mountain Nyiragongo Hiking and Mountain Nyamuragira Hiking. Mountain Nyiragongo hosts the world’s largest lava lake and the most fluid lava that moves almost 90 kilometers per hour compared to the rest that travel 1-10 kilometers per hour.

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