Mountain Gorillas In Uganda | Gorilla Groups and Families
Mountain gorillas are some of the rare animal species in the world, these mountain gorillas can only be found on African continent in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla national park (Virunga mountains) in southwestern Uganda, Virunga National Park in Democratic Republic of Congo and in Volcanoes National park (Parc National des Volcans) of Rwanda.
There are around 900-estimated number of mountain Gorillas in Uganda and can be tracked at cost of 700 USD per person from outside countries though east Africans and natives pay 150 USD. Gorilla permit bookings and payments are made through the Uganda wildlife Authority booking offices located along Kira road in Kampala. Mountain gorillas live in families with a silverback being the mature male and dominant amongst the group.
The total number of mountain gorilla groups is over 15. Gorilla comes from the Greek word (gorillas) meaning hairy women. They are highly intelligent primates and communicate using a variety of vocal sounds.
A silverback protects the family and has the rights to feed first though it takes the responsibilities of protecting the group and choosing what the rest of the family group should feed on.
Gorilla families found in Bwindi impenetrable National Park include; Nshongi, Mishaya, Kahungye, Nyakagezi, Bweza, Oruzog, Habinyanja, Bitukura, Rushegura, Mubare and Kyaguriro.
Habinyanja family group.
This is located in Buhoma sector and was habituated in 1997. The name Habinyanja is a Rukiga word meaning a place with water and it was the first gorilla group to be tracked in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park in 1999. At the time of habituation the group was being led by Mugurusi which means old man”.
After the death of Mugurusi, there were two brothers; Rwansigazi and Mwirima who shared power though they did not come together to mutually understand each other and decide on how to rule. They ended up splitting up Mwirima forming another family group while Rwansigazi was an adventurous gorilla and liked traveling compared to Mwirima who liked staying near the family area.
- Mubare gorilla family
This is the oldest habituated group with 8 individuals including a silverback. This was habituated in 1993 and the family was first sighted in Bwindi on Mubare Hill in Buhoma sectors thus the name Mubare family group. The family initially had about 18 members which were being led by a dominant silverback Ruhondeza.
However, as time lapsed, the family lost many members and five members were only left in 2012 due to fights, death of juveniles and some leaving the group to form other families. Ruhondeza was attacked and succeeded by Kanyonyi who managed to expand the family to eight members including a juvenile named Kashundwe. Ruhondeza took refuge in the nearby community after being succeeded in 2012 and died.
- Kyaguriro Gorilla family
Kyaguriro family is located in Ruhija sector with 15 individuals including 2 silverbacks. The family was habituated though it is kept for research purposes. Initially silverback Zeus led the group however he died in exile.
- Kahungye gorilla family
The group is located in Rushaga and consists of about 13 members and 3 silverbacks Gwigi being the dominant silverback. The word Gwigi means door in the local language. Kahungye is one of the recently habituated gorilla family groups in Bwindi impenetrable forest National Park. However in less than a year the group split and Busingye gorilla family was formed as a result.
- Busingye gorilla family.
Busingye gorilla family is found in Rushaga with a group size of 9 members including a silverback. Busingye split from Kahungye family group in June 2012 and decided to create his own family. The name Busingye means peace.
- Nyakagezi family group.
The group is located in Mgahinga National park and consists of about 10 individuals including 3 silverbacks. Mgahinga only hosts one gorilla family group which is Nyakagezi family led by the dominant silverback known as Mark. However Mark enjoys traveling visiting the boarders of Congo Rwanda and back to Mgahinga in Uganda.
- Nshongi gorilla family
This group consists of about 26 members and 4 silverbacks that are found in Rushaga sector. The group was named after River Nshonyi where the group was first sighted. Nshongi is derived from Omushongi Gw’obwoki a Rukiga word meaning honey that was used to describe the river due to its color.
This was the largest habituated gorilla family with 3 silverbacks, 36 members and about 7 black-backs that stayed together in harmony. In 2010 the group split into two. The Nshongi group remained with 26 individuals including 4 silverbacks. Mishaya was the second family group with 10 members.
- Mishaya gorilla family.
The group has about 12 members including one silverback Mishaya who was part of the Nshongi family group. Mishaya being a fighter, he managed to gather other females from other family groups thus establishing his own family group in 2010.
- Nkuringo gorilla family
It is located in Nkuringo with a family size of about 19 members including 2 silverbacks. Nkuringo means a “round hill’ in Rukiga referring to where the group was first spotted. Nkuringo silverback initially led the group and he died in April 2008, leaving behind 2 silverbacks named safari and Rafiki. Safari became the successor and managed to get twins Katungi and Muhozi from a mother named Kwitonda, hover Katungi died of illness at the age of 1.5 years.
- Oruzogo family
This gorilla family is located in Ruhija and consisted of about 25 members including 2 silverbacks. The group was the 2nd to be habituated in Ruhija sector and was led by silverback Tibirikwata. The family was opened for tourism in 2011 and since then the group has increased the number of members.
Ntamurungi the female gorilla gave birth to a juvenile in June 2011 and more joy came after getting a set of twins in March 2012 from Kakoba. Other members include; Busungu meaning short tempered, Kaganga meaning the giant one, Bwoba meaning the coward, among others.
- Bitukura gorilla
The group is located in Ruhija with 14 members. The mountain gorilla family was named after the river where the group has was first spotted. The group was habituated in July 2007. Bitukura group originally had about 24 members though the number reduced to about 14 members.
Bitukura is a peaceful family with about 4 silverbacks where the 2nd youngest silverback Ndahura is the leader. Ndahura took power from the former silverback Karamuzi who retired after staying for over 40 years.
- Rushegura gorilla Family
This family is located in Buhoma and consists of 19 members including one silverback. Rushegura is a name of a place where the separation of this larger group and the Habinyanja took place in February 2002.
Silverback Mwirima who took with him 12 individuals including 5 females led the breakaway. Mwirima at his estimated age of 25 managed to become a dominant silverback on his own within a group and showed his strength through many fights with wild Gorilla groups.
- Bweza Gorilla family
Bweza gorilla family is located in Rushaga sector of Bwindi impenetrable forest National Park. Bweza family consists of 7 members including one silverback and 2 juveniles.
Bweza family group came into existence due to misunderstandings amongst the members of the Nshongi family that was the largest mountain gorilla family. The family showed no signs of reunion and Bweza a silverback opted to break away thus forming Bweza gorilla family.