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It’s no wonder that a photograph of a gorilla hugging her longtime caretaker would win the People’s Choice Award in the 2017 contest: Wildlife Photographer of the Year. It shows the famous lowland gorilla, Pikin and Appolinaire, her best friend, both cuddling on their way to a new animal sanctuary.
You can see trust, love, and companionship in just a single image. And once you hear Pikin’s story, your heart will surely break. Let’s see their amazing story…
20. Over 50,000 Photographs
There were over 50,000 photographs in the contest hosted by the Natural History Museum in London. Out of all those photographs, only 24 were chosen by the museum staff to compete for the People’s Choice Award.
19. The Museum Will Hold an Exhibition
This photograph will be present at the museum in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, and the public can see it there until May 28. The photographer’s name is Jo-Anne McArthur and when she heard the news, she was extremely happy.
18. One Happy Day in 2009
Jo-Anne was present at the Ape Action Africa sanctuary in Mefou, Cameroon, when she took the photograph of Appolinaire, the caretaker, and Pikin. They were on their way to a bigger place for Pikin. This is what Jo-Anne said in her book…
17. ‘We Animals’
In McArthur’s book, she described how she took the photograph: ‘Even though it’s inadvisable, to say the least, to get into a vehicle with a gorilla […] Pikin had been sedated and was being held by Appolinaire. Worryingly for me, Pikin woke up earlier…’
16. Looking Around
Pikin woke up sleepily and, Jo-Anne remembers that the gorilla ‘seemed content to be in the arms of her caretaker, and eventually lay her head back down to rest and nodded off’. It was the perfect snap that would bring her the great prize!
15. ‘I’m So Thankful’
‘I’m so thankful that this image resonated with people and I hope it might inspire us all to care a little bit more about animals.’ Jo-Anne was very happy to win a prize for her hard work. She has traveled a lot to photograph wildlife and has seen a lot of tragedies…
14. ‘Bushmeat” Trade’
African countries are full of hunters that kill primates, as their meat is edible. When they hunt big apes, the hunters kill the mothers and leave the orphans to die in the forest or sell them as pets. Some of them are lucky like Pikin was.
13. The Ape Action Africa Organization
Some organizations rescue orphans found in the wild and feed them, take care of them and treat them. But they end up in sanctuaries because they get used to humans and could be in danger if they get released back into the wild.
12. Appolinaire Ndohoudou Meeting Pikin
‘When Pikin arrived I saw that she was very clever’, said Appolinaire. Moreover, Pikin was very jealous of her caretaker and would shout at any other gorillas that would approach him. ‘I was her father, I belonged to her,’ continued Appolinaire.
11. ‘She Was Very Funny’
Whenever Appolinaire would say ‘no’, Pikin would listen… for a while: ‘she would wait until she thought I had forgotten and then she would do it’, said the man. As Pikin grew into an adult gorilla, she and a group of other gorillas had to be taken to a new enclosure.
10. Pikin and Appolinaire
Pikin had to get a new home. Appolinaire had to leave his home because of a civil war. Both man and primate had to learn to rebuild their lives, and the connection between them grew stronger day by day…
9. Protecting Wildlife
Appolinaire and the others from the sanctuary are working to protect and care for wild animals. The photograph that won the People’s Choice Award in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest shows us both a happy and a sad story, similar to many other cases on the entire planet.
8. Helping Around
Here are some cute photographs of Pikin and Appolinaire doing their chores together. Pikin helped her caretaker wash his mug. It was shortly after she arrived at the Ape Action Africa, in 2007.
7. Getting a Free Ride
Pikin also made a friend in Thierry Djakou, who she followed around to catch a ride and get some sugar cane as a snack. Her years with the staff were the best, as she had a lot of fun and the people there loved her a lot. But Pikin would soon experience a tragedy…
6. A Young Adult
Pikin was now a young adult gorilla and she had to be moved to a bigger place. Unfortunately, a few years later, in 2014, Pikin would get into trouble… Everyone was in tears, as her life was in danger.
5. ‘Pikin Needs Your Help’
On 11 March 2014, the staff at the sanctuary announced every one of their Facebook followers that Pikin got herself in trouble. During one night, she fell out of a tree and impaled her leg on a branch. The caretakers were shocked!
4. Broken Legs and Infections
The poor gorilla was under treatment because she suffered from a severe infection and two of the bones in her lower legs were broken. She needed surgery and vets had to fly from the UK to Cameroon. Flights and mediation cost about £2,000…
3. Funds Were Gathered
People donated for Pikin’s recovery, treatment and everything, and in only two days they sent £3,800! Everyone at the sanctuary was touched by the people’s kindness. But they would be soon heartbroken…
2. Pikin Lost the Fight
‘We are absolutely heartbroken to tell you that Pikin has lost her fight for life’, said an update on the injured gorilla. Unfortunately, the infection in the leg spread and Pikin died of tetanus. There was nothing they could do, so they had to let her go…
1. Up in the Trees
‘I held Pikin yesterday and told her that I was keeping my promise and that she didn’t need to fight anymore. I am devastated to have lost my friend but I know that she is high in the trees […] free from pain’, said Rachel, one of the caretakers. They buried Pikin’s body under a plum tree outside the enclosure to have her by their side.