Ndakasi, the mountain gorilla whose selfie with one of the park rangers in charge of her care went viral on social media, died last week due to a prolonged illness at the age of 14. Metro UK reports she was in the presence of Andre Bauma, one of the rangers that rescued her as an infant. 

"Ndakasi took her final breath in the loving arms of her caretaker and lifelong friend, Andre Bauma," the rangers confirmed. "Ndakasi’s playful nature was a reminder to the world of how much we see ourselves in these animals and it’s one of the reasons Andre Bauma will miss her so dearly."

In 2007, Bauma rescued the 2-month-old gorilla while she was holding on to her lifeless mother after her family was decimated by militia hunting for bushmeat. Bauma along with fellow ranger Mathieu Shamavu brought her back with them to Senkwekwe Center in Virunga National Park where she grew up with another orphaned gorilla, Ndeze. According to CNN, due to illness, she couldn't be returned back to the wild. 

A heartbreaking photo shows Ndakasi laying with her head on Bauma's chest while the two laid on the floor together for one of their last embraces. Bauma and Ndakasi were reportedly very close since they first bonded during her rescue. 

"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 of the loss. "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," he continued.

The mountain gorilla was featured in several TV shows and movies, including the documentary, Virunga. The film focused on the brave group of rangers that went to necessary lengths in order to protect the mountain gorillas, which are considered to be an endangered species. The animals face ongoing issues like habitat loss, poaching and diseases. The species has been subjected to a series of massacres in the area, and because of such, the national park has made multiple changes to "significantly strengthen the protection of Virunga's mountain gorillas."

"The death of Ndakasi underscores the importance of protecting gorillas in their natural habitat, where they thrive and where their life expectancy is greatest," the park shared in its statement, per CNN.