This Viral Image Of A Gorilla Hugging Her Caretaker Just Won Wildlife Photo Of The Year

The story behind this photo is honestly just as good as the photo itself! I think we all first found our love of chimpanzees and gorillas was when Jane Goodall was taking us to school for the past 50 years. She made us all endear our close relatives as our friends, and that’s pretty cool.

Perhaps this is a moment Jane Goodall would love to have been apart of. We find ourselves at an animal sanctuary in Cameroon with Jo-Anne McArthur. She’s a Canadian photographer that is capturing our hearts once again.

Jo-Anne McArthur / Via UK Natural History Museum

So who’s in the picture? Pikin is a 6-year-old rescued lowland gorilla and she’s cuddling with her caretaker, Appolinaire Ndohoudou.

After 50,000 photographs were sent in, McArthur won the online voting contest. The Natural History Museum in London does this every year and their staff chose 24 other images for the People’s Choice Award competition.

Image Via ArtFund.Org

The image was taken back in 2009 at the Ape Action Africa sanctuary in Mefou, Cameroon, and Buzzfeed News was assured there was no time limit on these images for the award.

In her book, We Animals, she talks about the photo and says:

“Even though it’s unadvisable, to say the least, to get into a vehicle with a gorilla — given how they might panic in the unfamiliar, bouncing confines of a moving car — Pikin had been sedated and was being held by Appolinaire.

Worryingly for me, Pikin woke up earlier than anticipated and looked around sleepily. Luckily, she seemed content to be in the arms of her caretaker, and eventually lay her head back down to rest and nodded off.”

Image Via Ape Action Africa And Youtube

Pikin had been rescued by Ape Action Africa after her mother was killed by hunters. This is sadly a common thing that Ape Action Africa is involved in.

This past January when McArthur learned that the photo had won, she reached out to Pikin’s caretaker Ndohoudou. She wanted to see what he remembered about the photo. He said:

“When Pikin arrived I saw that she was very clever. She really loved me and I loved her. She didn’t like the other gorillas coming near me as she was jealous and she would shout if they tried to come and give me hugs. I was her father, I belonged to her.

Pikin loved me and respected me like her father; when I [said] ‘no,’ she would accept but then she was clever as she would wait until she thought I had forgotten and then she would do it! She was very funny.”

Image Via Jo-Anne McArthur

Sadly, Pikin passed away in 2014 after a big fall.

Ndohoudou recalled to McArthur about Pikin:

“When Pikin died I was very sad for a long time and I didn’t want to think about Pikin as it made me sad.

Now I know Pikin never left me, as she is always with me every day in my head and in my heart. And I know she misses me like I miss her.”