Gorilla selfie: Park ranger explains how he took viral photo

Mathieu Shamavu snapped two orphaned Congo gorillas copying his movements

Standing casually and turning their heads to stare straight at the camera, Ndakazi and Ndeze look like any cool selfie pros – only these posers are gorillas.

The photograph showing the two orphaned female gorillas posing like humans was taken in Virunga National Park, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has gone viral since it was published on the park's Instagram and Facebook pages this week.

Mathieu Shamavu, Virunga ranger and caretaker at the park's Senkwekwe Centre for Orphaned Mountain Gorillas, says he was out walking with Ndakazi and Ndeze when he spotted a photo opportunity.

View this post on Instagram

You might have recently seen caretakers Mathieu and Patrick’s amazing selfie with female orphaned gorillas Ndakazi and Ndeze inside the Senkwekwe center at Virunga National Park. We’ve received dozens of messages about the photo. 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. Guys, if you shared our gorilla selfie post, please share our Earth Day posts as well! Conserving Virunga’s amazing wildlife is a constant challenge for the Park and our work wouldn’t be possible without your support. Matching funds have been pledged on every donation to the Park today, up to a total of $25,000—giving us the opportunity to raise $50,000 for Virunga! Visit virunga.org/donate or click the link in our bio to get involved and keep sharing our posts! Thank you! *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. #gorillaselfie #gorilla #mountaingorilla #mountaingorillaselfie #selfie #earthday #earthday2019 #virunga #virunganationalpark #congo #drcongo #rdc #drc #protecttheplanet #happyearthday #wildlife #wildlifeconservation #conservation #natureconservation

A post shared by Virunga National Park (@virunganationalpark) on

“We let them loose so they are at ease. They were curious about what was happening. They stood up. And when they stood up I took my phone, because I didn’t want to lose the shot because it was exceptional,” Shamavu says. “When they saw me take out my phone they dropped what they were doing, spotted the camera and watched.”


Ndakazi and Ndeze were raised by caretakers at the Senkwekwe Centre after being rescued in 2007, when they were babies.

The park, which lies amid the volcanic mountains of central Africa, is home to more than half of the total population of mountain gorillas, an endangered species facing threats from poachers and armed groups.

“You see they can walk one or two metres on two legs, but also these animals are so used [to humans], they like to imitate and do what people do,” Shamavu says. “We are always together. We feed them, we walk with them, we accompany them in their natural environment, we are in charge of their security. This is why these gorillas are used to us. Their guardians and no one else – no journalist, no visitor – would have been able to take this photo.”

The park was closed last year after gunmen kidnapped tourists and killed a ranger trying to defend them. It reopened in February this year, but less than a month later militiamen killed a ranger there. – Reuters