Two gorillas stand behind a park ranger, one in a side angle, shoulders back, head up, seemingly posing. The other one seems to be peeking behind the human to make sure he is in good shape.
The photo – or gorilla selfie as it was called – became viral after being shared by Mathieu Shamavu, a ranger at Virunga National Park in eastern Congo, who captured the shot.
Shamavu said he checked his cell phone when he noticed two female orphaned gorillas, Ndakazi and Ndeze, mimicking his movements behind him and took a picture with them.
The photo of the gorillas quickly made thousands of likes and comments on social media after Shamavu posted the picture.
According to rangers of the sanctuary, Ndakazi and Ndeze were the first orphaned gorillas cared for at the Senkwekwe Mountain Gorilla Orphanage Center, the only place in the world devoted to the care of orphaned mountain gorillas. Nkakazi and Ndeze were orphaned twelve years ago when their families were killed by poachers.
Since the gorillas have such close contact with rangers and janitors at an early age, they learn to imitate humans.
You may be imitating everything that happens right now, everything we do, "Shamavu said.
He said the caretaker at the orphanage was trying to give them as much as possible access to their natural environment, but they Show "almost equal" behaviors as humans. "
The orphans need constant care, so the rangers live nearby and spend their days feeding, playing, and keeping them company.
"Gorilla janitor with these gorilla orphans, we are the same family," said chief janitor Andre Bauma. "You know we are her mother. You are a member of the family. We are her friends. "
Considered the most biodiverse national park in Africa, comprising tropical forests, snow-capped mountains and active volcanoes, Virunga is one of the last houses of wild mountain gorillas. The last remaining populations of wild animals are found in the mountains of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.
Virunga's management has had to take extraordinary measures to protect its visitors from incursions and disputes in the region – guarding them with a highly trained elite rangers and detection dogs guard and working closely with the surrounding parks.
After a park ranger was killed by armed men and three foreign tourists briefly detained, the park closed until it could secure the safety of the visitors. It reopened in mid-February this year.
Virunga's management hopes the viral gorilla selfie will help boost the park's profile, and encourages more people to spend money on the park, which relies on donations to private visitors.