WHAT EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT GORILLA FAMILIES
MGAHINGA GORILLA NATIONAL PARK OF UGANDA.
The Nyakagezi Gorilla Group
The Nyakagezi family is the only family that is habituated in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and it consists of 10 members with 1 Silverback called Mark who dominates the daily activities of the family. This alpha male tends to lead the way always and makes these gorillas travel across borders from Uganda to Rwanda and Congo. Over the years now, the group has tried to inhabit in Uganda’s Mgahinga and its Settled there and they call Uganda Home.
This group is greatly unpredictable in their movement, which calls for your permits to be booked at the local UWA offices in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park to be on safer side.
We advise and recommend that every trekker should be ready and well prepared for this kind of activity, well equipped because it is strenuous and at the same time breathtaking.
BWINDI IMPENETRABLE FOREST NATIONAL PARK
The Mubare Gorilla Group
This group is also called the M-Group and it is the first group that was habituated for tourists within the year of 1991. Its name came from the beautiful Mubare Hills where the group was first seen by the park rangers. This group received the first visitors in 1993 and initially they were 12 members of the family under the dominant male called Ruhondeza.
Ruhondeza as a main silverback led the group well that it grew on to about 18 memebrs, however, whenever Ruhondeza involved in battles, he ended up losing family members to death, the number reduced on. Around 2012, Ruhondeza had grown as old as 50 years and a wild Silverback attacked him, took him into exile where he died of severe injuries. He was later buried very respectfully near the UWA head offices.
This group is popular for their Ruhondeza who made history to have been the one who lived up to the age of 50 years and recorded as the oldest Silverback the country has ever known. The group got a new leading Silver back and has been growing over years there is still more hop for the group to grow and expand.
This group is found in areas of Buhoma where most trekkers like to trek so much, most people like this group because they regard it as easy to trek since it dwells within the immediacy of the UWA head offices.
The Habinyanja Gorilla Group
This gorilla family derives its name from a Kikiga word “Nyanja” which means a Lake, it was first habituated in 1997 and the first tourists visited it within the 1999. The group was one of those that were habituated first within the areas of Buhoma and the name they got was from the swamps of Bwindi Forest where they were first discovered.
At their first time of habituation, the group had around 30 members plus the dominant leader silver back called ‘Mugurusi’ which means an ‘old man’ in the Rukiga Language. Mugurusi died but had 3 sons, who had to take over the leadership. These 3 sons were named Rwansigazi meaning ‘ young-looking’, Makara meaning ‘Charcoal’ and Mwirima meaning ‘darkness’.
The silverbacks Mwirima and Rwansigazi started to battle for the throne and they never used to agree for a long time. But since Rwansigazi liked travelling and touring the forest in long distances, he moved on in 2002 with the other members who wanted to move like him and they remained with the initial name Habinyanja. His brother Mwirima was not too much different from his father, he liked keeping around in close and shorter distances so he formed his group with his fellow sluggish gorillas and they were named Rushegura family.
The two groups still zigzag around each other and there has never been any battle between them. The Habinyanja group still stands with around 18 members and have hope to increase with the leadership of the silverbacks Rwansigazi and Makara. The group can be trekked around the areas of Buhoma and trekking them is a bit strenuous.
The Rushegura Gorilla group
This is a sister group to the Habinyanja group, it was formed in 2002 after its Leader silverback Mwirimi failed to agree with the brother for one to take over his father’s throne. The group name came from the tree species called ‘the Ebishegura’ as it was everywhere around the gorillas’ dwellings.
They started their family with 12 members who have grown on over years due to the good leadership of Silverback Mwirima. The family has 19 members plus 1 silverback and it’s a humble group which moves around Buhoma Zone and at times forages around the areas of Gorilla Forest Camp. Due to the death of Mwirima the initial leader, the throne was taken up by a determined Kabukojo. Tracking this group is not so tiring because the group keeps roaming around the Buhoma communities.
The Oruzogo Gorilla group.
This gorilla family has its location in Ruhija and it has 25 individuals including 2 silverbacks and the dominant one is called Tibirikwata. This group is known for the playful and energetic juveniles including twins born to Kakobo the twin mother.
The family was introduced to habituation in the mid-2011, they started receiving visitors in the same year and since then they have been growing and expanding, you can trek this family within Ruhija but you have to make good plans for you to make your trekking memorable. Book an accommodation within Ruhija so that you make it early enough for the gorilla briefing. It should be noted however, that Ruhija has limited lodges so it’s advisable to book early enough or get accommodation in Buhoma where you may need to wake up very early in the morning.
The Bitukura Gorilla group.
This gorilla family won its name from the Bitukura River which flows into Bwindi Forest and this was the very spot where the group was first seen. This one was the only group habituated in the sector of Ruhija before the start of Oruzogo in 2011. Bitukura family was first habituated in July 2007 and was open to visitors in 2008.
This family group is so popular for being quick learners, they say it takes around 2 years for gorillas to get used to habituation, but this group was ready for it within just 15 months. This group had 24 members initially but constant wrangles reduced them to 14 individuals including 4 silverbacks, some moved and joined other groups. It’s well-known to be a peaceful group with Kyaguriro family which was set aside for research and they are over seen playing around together.
This group is said to be living in harmony, there are 4 silverbacks but they live calm with their leader Ndahura. Trekking these gorillas may cost you time, so it’s better to book in time to get nearby accommodation in Ruhija, but since there are few and limited accommodations, it’s important to sleep in Buhoma, but wake up at 5am to make it for the Gorilla orientation at the park head offices. This family is also known for being so good to one another.
The Kyaguriro Group (Reserved Group)
This is the third family within the zone of Ruhija; the group has a size of 15 individuals with 2 silverbacks. This group is habituated but not visited by the tourists because it was left aside to be for research, only accessed by researchers. This group has helped the conservationists to learn more about the gorillas especially those in Bwindi. Initially the group had a dominant silverback called Zeus, who was aging and so was banished by his contender called Rukina.
The Mishaya Gorilla group
This gorilla group dwells in the South Eastern parts of Bwindi Forest in Rushaga and the family got its name from the fighter and strong silverback called Mishaya who had battles in the Nshongi family and parted them with other 9 members to form his new one Mishaya within the year of 2010, the group later became open for trekkers in 2011.
The dominant silverback Mishaya is a fighter who attacks and defends his group members all the time. The power and determination of Mishaya is the reason the group kept expanding, but still during the battles some members left the group. Trekking this family needs trekkers to start their hike from UWA head offices or you may end up driving to the trails.
This family has 7 members including 1 silverback now since they lost members in the battles with other Gorilla groups.
The Nshongi Gorilla Group
This group was opened up to habituation in 2009 and was one of the largest groups to be trekked. This family was named after the River Nshongi where they were first spotted. Unlike any other group, this family has more than two silverbacks that live in peace and harmony without any battle for the throne, the dominant silverback Nshongi is not even the oldest, but he rules peacefully.
The group initially had 36 members who split in 2010 and created the present day Mishaya family. The family further split in 2013 to form the today’s Bweza gorilla family leaving the Nshongi family with 18 members. They live in harmony around the forested sectors of Rushaga and there is an opportunity to view birds, primates and butterflies in their own natural habitat.
The Bweza Gorilla group
This family can be trekked around the Rushaga zones of the Bwindi forest, it is also a product of the Nshongi Family whose family was the largest in Bwindi but split as some members left to create the Mishaya Family who later also split as Bweza the silverback left the group with other 6 members to create the present day Bweza Gorilla Family. The family has 7 members including 1 Silverback.
The Kahungye Gorilla group
This gorilla family can also be trekked around areas of Rushaga in Bwindi Forest National Park and earned the Kahungye from the hill in Rushaga where this group was first sighted. It has a size of 13 individuals including 3 silverbacks and their alpha male is called Rumansi. The other two silverbacks are old and named Ruhamuka and Rwigi.
This family was introduced to the tourists to trek in 2011 and they split shortly where the Busingye Gorilla Family also came into existence. Initially the group had 27 members together with 3 silverbacks; the split made the Busingye a new born family in the Rushaga sector.
The Busingye Gorilla Group
The word Busingye translates to mean “peace” and its actually not the right description of the Busingye the alpha gorilla of the group, the silverback Busigye is a stubborn one who picks fights with others and snatches females from other groups which has helped the group to grow up to the 9 individuals now. This family split from Kahungye family around 2012. This group is also trekked in Rushaga zone and their permits can also be handled in the Bwindi Local Uganda Wildlife Authority Offices within Rushaga.
The Nkuringo Gorilla Group
After 2 years of habituation process, the Nkuringo family was introduced to tourists for trekking; the word Nkuringo is a Rukiga language which means a “round Hill” around which the group was first discovered. This family was introduced to habituation due to their behavior of getting into local people’s gardens and plantations.
The group was open to visitors so that the local people could benefit from these gorillas, the group had a dominant male who passed in 2008 leaving 2 other silverbacks to take over Rafiki and Safari. Safari took the throne and a few months later the group welcomed twins who were named Muhozi and Katungi but Katungi died of illness.
Trekking this group of 19 members in the Nkuringo zone needs a hiker to be more energetic because it is one of the toughest yet elated hikes in Uganda.
GORILLA FAMILIES OF UGANDA
Uganda keeps over half of the Global Mountain Gorillas which have been on an increase over years within her Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Parks located in Southwestern Uganda. However much mountain Gorillas are shared with Rwanda and DR Congo, the majority of them find Uganda very shielding. This explains why now Uganda has 12 habituated Gorilla families of which 11 families are habituated and free for tourists’ visits in Bwindi Forest, 1 group which is left alone for research in Bwindi-Ruhija sector and 1 other group habituated in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Below are the regions where different Gorilla groups live, Buhoma sector is however the busiest zone of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with way too many activities one can take part in. This area is historically recorded to be the first one opened for Gorilla Trekking.
Gorilla Groups/Families and their zones of dwelling
- Nkuringo Gorilla Family
- Bweza Family
- Mishaya Family
- Kahungye Family
- Busingye Family
- Nshongi Famly
- Habinyanja Family
- Bitukura Family
- Kyaguriro Family ( the one for research)
- Oruzogo Family