A park ranger who took a hilarious selfie with two gorillas has revealed how he captured the magical moment.
Mathieu Shamavu said he had been checking his phone at the Virunga Park in eastern Congo when he noticed the two female orphaned gorillas Ndakazi and Ndeze mimicking his movements.
He then took a picture with the animals who looked as if they were posing for the camera. Shamavu then posted the photo on social media, where it quickly went viral.
According to rangers at the sanctuary, the two gorillas had been orphaned 12 years ago when their families had been killed by poachers.
Two gorillas at the Virunga National Park in Congo looked human-like as they posed for a selfie
The centre, according the its management, is the only place in the world which is dedicated to the care of orphaned mountain goriallas.
As the gorillas arrive in the sanctuary at a young age, they learn from their caretakers, said Shamavu.
He said: ‘In terms of behavior, they like to mimic everything that is happening (around them), everything we do’.
He added that the caretakers at Senkwekwe Mountain Gorilla Orphanage Center try to give the animals as much access as possible to their natural environment, but they inevitably exhibit ‘almost the same behavior as humans.’
The rangers are guardians of the park that was primarily gazetted to protect the endangered Mountain Gorillas. Pictured is Mr Sadiki in one of many selfies with his gorilla friends
Senkwekwe is named after one of the wild silverback gorillas that was killed in Virunga in 2007.
The orphans need constant care, so the rangers live nearby and spend their days with them – feeding them, playing with them, keeping them company.
Head caretaker Andre Bauma said the caretakers and the Gorillas are family.
He said without their own relatives nearby, the gorillas treat the rangers as their own.
‘They know we are their mum. They are a member of the family. We are their friends,’ said Bauma.
Virunga is billed as Africa’s most biodiverse national park, spanning tropical forests, snow-peaked mountains and active volcanoes.
It’s also one of the last bastions of wild mountain gorilla populations. Parks in the mountains of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda have the last remaining mountain gorillas in their natural habitat.
But it’s in eastern Congo, an area that has suffered from years of armed conflict.
Virunga’s management has had to take extraordinary measures to keep its visitors safe from the on-and-off fighting in the region – protecting them with a highly trained guard of elite rangers and sniffer dogs, and working closely with communities surrounding the park.
After a park ranger was killed by gunmen and three foreign tourists were briefly held captive, the park closed until it could secure the safety of visitors. It reopened in mid-February this year.
But all this costs money, and the state park says it wouldn’t be able to survive without private donations from visitors.
Virunga’s management hopes the viral gorilla selfie will help boost the park’s profile, and encourage more people to contribute to the vital work of conserving the mountain gorillas and their unique natural habitat.