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She was found clinging to her mother’s body more than a decade ago and was taken to a rescue center where a man held her, keeping her safe and warm; Ndakasi took her final breaths in the arms of the same man before her September death.

The beloved gorilla was in the care of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo for more than a decade. Ndakasi suffered from a prolonged illness before her death.

The gorilla was just a few months old when armed militia gunned down her mother, according to the park. Rangers couldn’t find any family members nearby, so they took her to a rescue center where she was introduced to “lifelong friend” Andre Bauma.

“It was a privilege to support and care for such a loving creature, especially knowing the trauma Ndakasi suffered at a very young age,” Bauma said. “One could say that she took after her mother, Nyiransekuye, whose name means ‘someone happy to welcome others.’ It was Ndakasi’s sweet nature and intelligence that helped me to understand the connection between humans and Great Apes and why we should do everything in our power to protect them. I am proud to have called Ndakasi my friend. I loved her like a child and her cheerful personality brought a smile to my face every time I interacted with her. She will be missed by all of us at Virunga but we are forever grateful for the richness Ndakasi brought to our lives during her time at Senkwekwe.”