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Mountain Gorilla Families

Gorilla Families in Bwindi Forest National park, Volcanoes National Park, Virunga National Park and Kahuzi Biega National Park.

The Buhoma Sector; has three Gorilla family groups i.e Mubare, Habimanya and Rushegura.

Mubare Gorilla group

Also referred to as the M-Group, this was the initial group to be habituated for tracking in 1991 and was first visited by tourists in 1993. The group was named after the beautiful Mubare Hills due to the fact that these Gorillas where first seen around the hills.

There are 8 individuals in the group with a lead Silverback known as Ruhondeza. Before, the group comprised of 18 individuals and unfortunately the number continuously declined leaving only 5 individuals due to increased relocation of individuals to other groups, loss of lives in overthrow battles, etc.

In March 2012, the group was attacked by a very violent Gorilla group which over threw Ruhondeza thereby taking most of the females and at the time, Ruhondeza had grown old leading to his flee into a closeby forest where he died in sleep on the 27th June 2012. The group was left in the hands of Kanyonyi who expanded the group to 8 members with an infant called Kashundwe.

Habinyanja Group

Being habituated for tracking in 1997 and visited in 1999, the group consisted of 17 member before with two silverbacks i.e Rwansigazi and Mwirima.

These had different preferences which made them decide to separate peacefully. Rwansigazi stayed as the dominant ruling silver back where as, Silver back Mwirima left and created another new group called the Rushegura Gorilla group. After a while,surrendered power to Silver back Makara who is the ruling Silver back today.

Habinyanja means a place of water hence the name of the group since these Gorillas were first seen around a swamp in Bwindi Impenetrable National park. These two groups interact with each other peacefully with out any issues.

Rushegura Group

This group was habituated for tracking  and received visitors in 2002.  This split from the Habinyanja group in 2000 and has 19 individuals under a ruling silver back called Mwirima. The term Rushegura means break away thereby bringing up the name since this split from Habinyanja group.

Mwirima left with 12 members inclusive of 5 females and by April 2010, the group increased leading to a total number of 19 individuals. Silver back Mwirima is very strong hence never defied since he is usually showing his power in battles with other Gorilla groups.

The group is peaceful and calm oftenly found around Buhoma Village wandering along the lodges, gardens due to curiosity.

The Ruhija sector; this has three family groups which include Bitukura, Oruzogo, Kyaguliro.

The Bitukura Group

being named after the beautiful River Bitukura, the group is very calm and peaceful that took only fifteen months to be habituated and was established for tracking in October 2008.

The family had 24 members who reduced to 14 with 4 silverbacks of which the second youngest silverback “Ndahura” is the leading silverback who succeeded an aged Silver back known as Karamuzi who was leader for more than 40 years.

The group interacts peacefully with the Kyaguliro Gorilla group and has adult females for example Ruhara who gave birth to an infant gorilla, Young gorillas, juveniles and these are protected by Silver back Ndahura.

The Oruzogo group

also situated in the Ruhija sector, the group has 23 members with a dominant Silver back called Tibirikwata. The group was opened for tracking in June 2011 and continuously increased in number when adult female Gorillas i.e Ntamurungi gave birth in June 2011 and Musi in October 2011.

The group celebrated more when an adult female Gorilla known as Kakoba gave birth to twin infants in March 2012. Other family members include Busungu gorilla whose name means “short temper”, Kaganga “giant” and Bwoba “coward”.

 The Kyaguriro group

this group was established purposely for research/ study and was habituated in 1999. If you want to know more details about Gorillas, their traits/ attributes and how they differ from those of the Virungas,  you should visit this group for all the information you need while visiting Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Originally, the group was led  by a dominant  Silver back called Zeus a term that means lord/ master in Greek methodology hence naming him the lord of all Gorilla individuals in his group. However, there was a battle between him and some other silver back which led to his defeat hence his ejection into the forest where he died with time.

The Rushaga sector (Kisoro); this has five family groups which Include Nshongi, Mishaya, Busingye, Kahungye and Bweza

Nshongi Group

this was very hesitant when it came to habituation in 2009 and was named after the promnent River Nshongi since these Gorillas were first seen around the river. The term Nshongi means honey due to the fact that the river is dark at the bottom.

The group was the largest with 36 individuals including 3 Silver backs, 7 black backs, under the lead of a dominant Silver back called Nshongi who was not the oldest in the group. Despite this situation, these lived in harmony with one another and didn’t fight themselves over power.

However, the group split into two portions leading to a reduction in number up to 26 individuals with 4 silver backs. Mishaya left the group with 12 individuals hence forming his own which is known as the Mishaya Gorilla group.

Mishaya Group

this was founded/ created by Silver back Mishaya who had split from the Nshongi gorilla group in July 2010 with 12 members. The group was referred to as Mishaya due to the fact that these Gorillas were first seen around Mishaya Village.

Silver back Mishaya is known to be very tough/ strong since he is fond of starting interactions with other gorilla families where he captures many females which has enabled him expand his group. For instance, he battled with a certain non habituated gorilla group in April 2011 and this did not go so well for him since he got serious injuries/ wounds as well as a juvenile of 2 years old from his group. Although, he was treated and recovered well.

Kahungye Group

This was habituated in 2009 with 13 members including three silver backs. It was officially opened for tracking in October 2011 and is one of the initially habituated Mountain Gorilla families in the park.

However, the group split after a very violent battle over power amongst the three strong Silver backs and this led to the formation of a new Gorilla group called Busingye Gorilla group.

Before the separation, the group consists of 27 individuals with three silver backs though only one is the leader and he is referred to as Silver back Gwigi a term that means door in the ordinary language.

 Busingye Group

This was established and habituated in 2011 consisting of 9 individuals and a  silverback called Busingye who decided separate and leave with some members from the Kahungye Gorilla group in June 2012 so as to form his own.

The word Busingye means peace in the ordinary language despite the fact that it does not reflect on this silver back for he is a very violent ambitious Gorilla who usually starts battles with other Gorilla groups in order to capture some members to include in his group. He is fond of showing his strength by capturing females from the violent wild Gorilla groups he fights with.

Bweza Group

Comprising of 9 individuals with a dominant silverback known as Bweza that once was a member of the Nshongi Gorilla group, the group was officially opened for tracking in December 2012.

He and Mishaya decided to separate and leave to form/ create their own Gorilla groups despite the fact that Mishaya left before Bweza in July 2010. Today, this group is said to go back to the Nshongi Gorilla group something that has not happened till today.

The Nkuringo Group

the group consists of 19 members with 2 silverbacks and was habituated in 2004. The name Nkuringo came from the magnificent Nkuringo hill since these were first seen around this area and are always wandering outside the park and the neighboring villages.

Before, Silver back Nkuringo was the lead silver back though left power in the hands of two silver backs i.e Safari and Rafiki after his death in April 2008. Silver back Safari who was Nkuringo’s son is the lead silver back and after a period of seven months, the group was blessed with twins from adult mother Kwitonda which brought triumph to the group and these were called Muhozi and Katungi. However, at the age of 1.5 years, Infant Katungi lost his life.

Mgahinga National park has only one habituated Gorilla group i.e the Nyakagezi Gorilla group with 9 members i.e 2 Silver backs, 3 adult females, 2 juveniles and 2 infants/ babies. The group is never constant for it usually moves from one destination to another which makes it hard to to trek them down there fore, we recommend visitors to find out the group’s current location before tracking.

This activity will take a day in company of an experienced guide who has adequate knowledge about this group and the forest as well. This will make tracking them more easier. While trekking, you will spot and encounter other mysteries of nature like the birds, terrain & thick vegetation, wild flora including the flowers.

Gorilla families at Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

At Volcanoes National Park Rwanda we have ten Mountain Gorilla Families and these include the following Susa group, Umubano, Ugenda, Sabinyo, Hirwa, Karisimbi,Amahoro,Bwengye,Kwitonda and Group 13 “Agasha group”.

Susa Group (Susa A Family)

Examined by Dian Fossey, this group is huge with thirty eight gorillas with three silver backs which are difficult to trail due to the fact that one requires physical fitness to spot them since they are always located in hilly places especially mountains with un usual twins of five called Impano and Byishimo that are lively.

The group was named after the Susa River which gushes into the habitat of gorillas. In order for one to trek this group easily, they should get in contact with the park wardens since these have knowledge about the area where the group was last spotted the previous day.

It is one of the groups that were first habituated for example Poppy a gorilla born in 1976 was preliminary in Dian Fossey’s exploration. The group is very vast with forty two members which split and led to the formation of Karisimbi gorilla group.

The mother gorilla ditches one of the twins and moves on with another due to the fact that she cannot take care of both of them at the same time though Nyabitondore decided to take proper care for her twins without remorse and these tease/joke amongst other gorillas.

 Karisimbi Family (Susa-B)

Known as the Susa B or Karisimbi group after breaking up from Susa A group, this group includes fifteen members who are situated along the inclines of Mount Karisimbi Volcano at the uppermost crest in Rwanda.

Trekking this group is more convenient for people interested in hiking since this group is inhabited in the lofty inclines of the Karisimbi caldera. Trekking this group is very daring since hiking takes the whole day hence some tourists find it hectic to trek. n.

Sabyinyo Gorilla Group

Sabyinyo Gorilla group was named after Sabyinyo Volcano with “Sabyinyo” meaning an old man’s teeth and is under a great silverback among all the other groups called Guhonda. This group is easily tracked due to its strategic location close to the park and Guhonda leads with Ryango an opponent who is a retired gorilla.

This inspiring group has a small number of members that is eight individuals including a silverback (Guhonda), three grown up feminine, a young female and two immature gorillas with an infant gorilla as compared to other gorilla families.

Amahoro Gorilla Group

Being a peaceful gorilla group having 17 members including a silver back, two black backs, five adult females,2 juveniles,2 sub adult males and five babies.

The group is known to be peaceful due to its leader called Ubumwe who is very calm, easy, simple though has unfortunately lost group members to other groups like the Umubano group under Charles. In order for one to spot the group, he/she should ascend to interact with the gorillas.

Umubano Group

This group consists of 11 members including a silver back, an adult masculine, a subordinate female with six infants and the word Umubano entails to entails to friendliness.

The group originally belonged and separated from the Amahoro gorilla group after Ubumwe who was an influential silverback lost victory to Charles who started his own group. This begun when Charles got mature and could not bow to the ruling of Ubumwe who was the silverback leading at that time and due to this, he decided to fight him until he over threw him after a long period of time like weeks/months.

After the disputes, Charles took a number of females with him hence structuring his own group called Umubano which made him influential and recognizable by Ubumwe hence bringing a peaceful interrelated connection between these two different groups.

Agasha Group(13 Group)

At the beginning of habituation, this group had only thirteen members which increased to twenty five members of today including a Silverback,12 Mature females,2 sub ordinate adult females,3 juvenile gorillas and 7 babies. Before, the group was under Nyakarima who lost victory to Agashya a name that means “the reports” since Agashya took his time reviewing the vigor and flaws of Nyakarima.

After studying all this, He decided to fight Nyakarima who he over powered hence obtaining his whole group. This left Nyakarima distressed and the incident became peculiar in the history of gorillas. Agashya decided to transfer ahead of the volcano where he secured his group so as for Nyakarima not to locate them and increased the number of members in his group by stealing members from other groups and those that are homeless which hiked the number from twelve to twenty five. It is a challenging group to trek.

Kwitonda Family

With eighteen individuals, this group is led by a silverback called Kwitonda meaning “humble one” and has two silverbacks with a black back.

Just like the Karisimbi group, this is also very hard to trek due to the fact that one has to move longer distances to spot it and the group is believed to have relocated from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Volcanoes National park.

Hirwa Group (which means “lucky one”)

This was formed on 17th June 2006 after a number of gorillas from two diverse groups i.e. Sabinyo and Agashya left and adjoined to create a candid group called the Hirwa Gorilla group. After formation the group was joined by other homeless gorillas and gorillas from other groups hence increasing their number to 9 members including a silverback,3 mature females,2 subordinate females with 3 infants. Although it is the newest gorilla group, Hirwa shows strength and well safeguards its members

Bwenge Family

Usually spotted along the inclines of Karisoke Volcano, the group was found in 2007 with eleven individuals and a leading silverback called Bwenge. Bwenge created this group after relocating from his birth group and uniting with female gorillas from other groups hence increasing in number and forming the Bwenge Gorilla group.

The group has faced hardships for example when 6 baby gorillas lost their lives though has moved from this there by growing into a very resilient group with a tough silverback and triumphant deliveries. Trekking this group takes around 3hrs due to the fact that it is quite hectic and difficult since one has to follow trails that are mucky and vertical.

Ugenda Family

The Ugenda Gorilla group inhabits the region of Karisimbi in Rwanda and consists of eleven members with two silverbacks.

The name Ugenda   refers to “relocate”  and this is due to the fact that this gorilla family is always transferring from one destination to the next hence tracking it is very timid and difficult since one has to walk prolonged distances to get to interact and spot them.

Gorilla families at Virunga National Park Congo

At Virunga National park there are six habituated Gorilla families which are distributed in different sectors like the Mikeno and Bukima sector neighboring Goma.

The Mikeno sector comprises of approximately a hundred gorillas including seven infants and Bukima with Kabirizi Gorilla group with 34 gorillas and two silverbacks. Other groups include the Humba, Rugendo, Mapuwa, lulengo and Muyanga Gorilla groups.

Kabirizi Family

With their leader silverback Kabirizi the gorilla family is located in the sector of Bukima near Goma and comprises of thirty four gorillas with two silverbacks of which one silverback called Kabirizi acts as the leader since 1998 after being habituated.

The gorilla group obtained its name from the director of ICCN who passed away after encountering a tragic accident. Before then, the family was referred to as the Ndungutse gorilla group because it was led by silverback Ndungutse who was killed during the disputes between the revolutionaries of Rwanda and DR Congo in 1997.

Humba Family

Since 1998, this group is under the rule of a silverback called Humba who separated from Rugendo “the father” and a brother to silverback Senkwekwe who was assassinated on the 22nd July 2007 by mysterious people with firearms. It consists of sixteen gorillas with two silverbacks situated in the Bukima sector near Goma.

Rugendo Family

With 3 silverbacks with Rugendo as the leader and 6 gorilla members, the group was habituated in 1989 and around 1997 it consisted of eighteen gorilla members with two silverbacks i.e. Humba and Rugendo.

After a split between the two silverbacks, Rugendo remained with only eight members  though these multiplied as time and years elapsed due to increased births of infants in the group for example two births occurred in the group in 1999 by Safari an adult female gorilla who gave birth to Katembo  with Neza who also produced.

On 15th July 2001, Rugendo was killed during the insurgencies that were happening between the military and interhamwe armed force and later on, in 2007 other four Gorillas including Senkwekwe a successor to Rugendo were killed along with three adult females ie Neza, Safari, and Mburanumwe.

Mapuwa Family

Comprising of fifteen members and a silverback called Mapuwa, the group is situated n Jomba neighboring Bunagana. Silverback Mapuwa was a son to Rugendo who choose to separate with his birth family to create his own with two adult females namely Mafaze and Jicho.

He did not stop fighting with other groups so as to gain more females so as to enhance expansion of the group for example, in 2002 he battled with Pili-Pili whom he left an introvert and snatched three gorillas which he added to his group there by leading to increased births that hiked the number to fifteen gorilla members.

Lulengo Family

This group is under the rule of Silverback Lulengo with six gorilla members and is found in Jomba close to Bunagana. Silver back Lulengo’s birth family was Rugabo which was the initial habituated family in the Mikeno sector.

Before, the group was named “Musekura” although the name was changed by park wardens to Lulengo so as to remember the official director of Virunga National Park who died after encountering a land mine. Unfortunately, his father Rugabo as well passed away after being killed in 19994 during the Great lakes Refugee Crisis and left power to his sons ie Pili-Pili, Mareru, Lulengo-Black back and Nvuyekure a juvenile gorilla.

Munyaga Family

Situated in Bukima near to Goma with seven gorillas and 2 silverbacks,this group was the final group to be discovered by the wardens in 2008. The family is under the lead of Muyanga a silverback gorilla and Bilali an adult female gorilla who relocated from the Rugendo gorilla group in 2004 with two infant gorillas who died while babies.

Later on, Munyanga also vanished leaving power in the hands of another silverback called Mawazo who was residing with Buhanga till 1997. He later on, he connected with Karatega who he left then went back to Buhanga around 1998 where he went from to unite with the Munyaga Gorilla Family.

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