Taking a selfie while you’re bored at work is a time-honored coping mechanism. Usually, a friend or two will click “like” on the selfie and the world will move on unchanged. But when your workplace is as interesting as Mathieu Shamavu’s is, a work selfie tends to garner a bit more attention.
Shamavu is a caretaker for gorillas and other wildlife at the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
His work is not easy, but one of the perks of such a selfless task is that Shamavu is surrounded by many grateful animals. The park is home to a whopping 22 species of primates.
This includes three great apes and an unbelievable 1,000 mountain gorillas. Needless to say, Shamavu’s selfie was going to be a little more interesting than one from an average nine-to-five job.
Shamavu took a selfie of himself with a co-worker and two gorillas, named Ndakazi and Ndeze, who seemed to be acting oddly similar to a normal, casual human.
Both of the gorillas posed for the photograph bipedally, meaning standing on only their two hind legs. The gorilla on the left keeps her hands to her side, almost as though she is nervously hiding her hands in pockets.
The gorilla on the right is almost covered by Shamavu but leans in just far enough for her face to be fully seen in the photo, as if that was the gorilla’s intention.
The selfie spread like wildfire on social media. On Instagram, it has 65,471 likes on the Virunga National Park’s official page.
The park’s page now boasts 86,300 followers on Instagram, and, while it is unclear how many followers the park had prior to the selfie, it is safe to assume that the picture boosted that number a great deal.
The glory of having an internet-famous selfie does not come, however, without the burden of accountability. Many people asked how it was possible for the gorillas to pose in the picture and if they were really comfortable standing on two feet like that.
Luckily, the Virunga National Park answered both of these questions and many more on their Instagram page with a representative from the park saying, “Those gorilla gals are always acting cheeky so this was the perfect shot of their true personalities!”
But what about seeing the gorillas standing on only two feet; is that really comfortable?
The park assured readers saying, “Also, it’s no surprise to see these girls on their two feet either—most primates are comfortable walking upright (bipedalism) for short bursts of time.”
The representative also went on to remind online fans that they should never pose with a gorilla in the wild. Don’t try this one at home.
The same Instagram post urges viewers to consider spreading awareness for Earth Day, which recently occurred on Monday, April 22nd.
The park reminded social media followers that while the selfie with the gorillas is very cool, it does take a lot of money to take care of so many animals in an enclosed sanctuary, so donations are appreciated.
As their website explains, Virunga National Park is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the most biologically diverse park of its kind on the entire African continent.
They view their work as not only protecting the wildlife of the region but also producing jobs and industry for those living in the area.
Sadly, the work done at the park is not only expensive but also dangerous. In March of 2019, a park ranger named Hakizimana Chadrack died after sustaining a serious injury from wildlife at the park. Two foreign tourists were also kidnapped at the park in May 2018.
The two were men from Britain, and there was a ransom of $200,000 placed for their release. Despite an attempt by the Congolese Army to rescue the men, their captors killed them.
The Telegraph reports the area surrounding Virunga National Park “…is also the hideout of a dozen militias and rebel outfits from three different countries, remnants of Congo’s bloody civil war.”
The risk Mathieu Shamavu and the other rangers take on every day at Virunga National Park is more than many of us can even imagine. But the gorillas, Ndakazi and Ndeze, in their now-famous selfie poses, remind us how much joy can come out of adversity.