Park ranger comforts devastated gorilla who just lost his mother

A heartbreaking picture of shared grief between a park ranger and a young gorilla in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is proof that sorrow is a feeling many species endure. For this particular gorilla, the grief is from the death of his mother at the hands of poachers.
Virunga National Park is Africa's oldest park and home to one-quarter of the 880 mountain gorillas left in existence. Virunga's park rangers are dedicated and brave men and women; they put their lives on the line to protect the species in the park every day, but must regularly endure attacks by militia and incursions from poachers and traffickers.
The love and compassion these rangers have for the park's animals are clearly visible in the face of the ranger in the picture, Patrick Karabaranga, who sits dejectedly next to the gorilla, his arm around the animal's shoulder. The gorilla's hand is placed on Karabaranga's leg, seeking comfort.
After this attack by poachers, this young gorilla and two other orphans have been brought into the park's sanctuary and raised by hand because their parents have all been killed. Chief Warden Emmanuel De Merode states, "They had a very difficult start to life [...] They were recovered from poachers, from the bodies of their mothers after their families had been attacked."
De Merode considers the baby gorillas' survival as "pretty miraculous. Baby gorillas of that age very rarely survive."
It's no wonder that it takes a miracle for these beautiful animals to survive in their natural habitat. The forces that the gorillas and that the park rangers are up against are very real and very threatening.
"There are a number of main threats. Obviously now, we're very worried about the state of [Congo's civil] war that we're living through. The gorillas could end up in the crossfire. It's happened before, and it could happen again," says De Merode.
The civil war between rebel forces and the Congolese Armed Forces shadows the work the rangers do at Virunga National Park every day. More than 100 park rangers have been killed protecting the park over the last twenty years.
De Merode says, "[The park] is absolutely exceptional. If we lose this park, we've lost something that can never be recovered. And so it does require a huge commitment and a huge sacrifice to protect it."
De Merode and his park rangers are willing to do everything they must --- including giving up their lives --- to save the park and the gorillas who live in it. According to De Merode, the gorillas have the same human qualities as people but "without the failings."
Help us honor the brave park rangers of Virunga National Park and the beautiful gorillas they save every day. Watch their story in the video below and share it with your family and friends on Facebook.

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