Two gorillas at the Virunga National Park in Congo looked extraordinarily human-like as they posed for selfies with anti-poaching rangers.
Virunga, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has 600 dedicated rangers and two of them snapped the heart-warming series of selfies with the gorillas who can weight up to 400lbs.
One shows the gorillas standing upright behind the men, while another titled ‘family time’ shows one of the rangers, Patrick Sadiki with the primates, Ndakasi and Matabishi cuddling up to him.
The latest picture, posted on Thursday, garnered over 12 thousand likes and 14 thousand shares on Facebook at the time of writing.
It was titled ‘another day at the office’ and one person, Pernilla Winterskiöld, replied: ‘Wow, that is an awesome office you’ve got there. Stay safe and thank you for the amazing work you do.’
According to the park’s website, the area has been ‘deeply’ impacted by war and armed conflict over the last two decades and so the fearless work of the rangers is crucial.
In total, 179 rangers have died in the line of duty.
‘These local men and women go through intensive training, risking their lives on a daily basis to safeguard the park’s exceptional wildlife, including the last of the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas,’ the website reads.
All of the rangers go through an extensive six-month training regime to become guardians of the park.
They are all from local Congolese towns and villages and need support to continue their vital work.
Patrick Sadiki and one of his friends from the park. He and a fellow ranger took these selfies
The rangers are the guardians of the park that was primarily gazetted to protect the endangered Mountain Gorillas that call it home.
The park revealed earlier this month on their Facebook page that two of their rangers had died due to the ‘force of nature’, as they put it.
One man, Hakizimana Sinamenye Chadrack, died on March 29 from injuries sustained in an attack by a hippo when he was gathering water at the edge of a river.
Mozambican Ranger Abase Carrimo died after being struck by lightning just days later.
‘Hippos are magnificent animals but they are very wary of humans, especially given the increase of poaching hippos for their ivory teeth. In this case, it was a hippo mother, who had a calf with her,’ the park said in a release.
Another man, Ranger Freddy Mahamba Muliro, died in early March defending the park from an attack.
The park was closed amid several security concerns in June last year and was only reopened in February.
Congolese militia killed a ranger who was protecting two British tourists who travelled to see the rare gorillas – proving the final straw for park authorities.
Virunga National Park is in the Albertine Rift Valley in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
‘We have taken off enough time to be sure of an improvement of security of the visitors,’ said Emmanuel De Merode, Virunga National Park director, opening the park again early this year.
It was created in 1925 and is among the first protected areas in Africa. In altitude, it ranges from 680 m in the Semliki River valley to 5,109 m in the Rwenzori Mountain.
Around 400 gorillas, in around 10 groups led by males flow freely between the Rwandan protected area and Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Virunga National Park.
In 2013, the park authorities estimated that six mountain gorilla families – 100 individuals – were contained in Virunga and available to track.
The 1990’s war period in the Rwanda was so challenging to the Virunga because of high influx of refugees into the Virunga conservancy who encroached on wildlife resources, but the rangers protect the gorillas from external forces including poachers.
Democratic Republic of Congo also is the only country with both Lowland and Mountain gorillas but it is not only these large primates in the park, the 2012 wildlife census recorded 218 mammal species – of which 22 are primates, 706 bird species, 109 reptiles and 65 amphibian species.
It is also home to Mount Nyiragongo, an active stratovolcano, and Mount Mikeno, a dormant one.