Park ranger Mathieu Shamavu’s job couldn’t be more important. As a caretaker at Virunga National Park’s mountain gorilla orphanage, in the Congo, he’s part of the last line of defense for young primates in need.
But Shamavu is more than just a protector to the gorillas; he’s like family, too.
Among the gorillas with whom Shamavu has formed a special bond are Ndakazi and Ndeze — a pair of young females who, sadly, lost their parents to poachers. Despite their sad pasts, they’ve come a long way thanks to his special care.
“I’m still close to them and they feel good,” Shamavu told The Dodo.
Recently, while enjoying one another’s company, Shamavu decided to pause for a selfie with Ndakazi and Ndeze behind him, resulting in an image that captures their sweet connection perhaps better than words ever could:
Not surprisingly, the adorable selfie has since gone viral, in part, no doubt, due to the casual, upright poses Ndakazi and Ndeze strike in the photo.
“YES, it’s real! Those gorilla gals are always acting cheeky so this was the perfect shot of their true personalities!” Virunga National Park wrote. “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.”
What’s most striking, however, is the look of love in the eyes of Ndakazi and Ndeze toward the man who changed their lives.
Shamavu is clearly dedicated to his work, but the job isn’t without its dangers. Rangers at Virunga National Park are at risk from conflicts with poachers and rebel groups in the region; five rangers were killed on the job last year alone.
But, as Ndakazi and Ndeze prove, it’s a cause worth fighting for:
“Conserving Virunga’s amazing wildlife is a constant challenge for the Park and our work wouldn’t be possible without your support,” the park wrote.