Gorilla Families in Uganda – Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks

Gorilla Families in Uganda – Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks

 
Gorilla Families In Uganda – Uganda is home to a remarkable array of mountain gorilla groups, with a total of 14 habituated families spread across two main parks: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Each group is led by a dominant silverback, the oldest and most experienced male in the family, and comprises anywhere from 10 to 40 members of varying ages. Here’s a brief overview of the gorilla groups in Uganda:
 

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

  1. Mubare Group: One of the oldest habituated gorilla families in Bwindi, named after the Mubare hills where they were first sighted.
  2. Habinyanja Group: Found in the northern part of Bwindi, this group was habituated near the Bwindi park headquarters.
  3. Rushegura Group: Known for its calm and peaceful demeanor, this family often roams near the Buhoma area of Bwindi.
  4. Bitukura Group: One of the larger gorilla families, characterized by its playful juveniles and strong leadership under the silverback Bitukura.
  5. Oruzogo Group: Located in the Ruhija area of Bwindi, this family is known for its large size and frequent interactions with visitors.
  6. Nkuringo Group: Inhabiting the southern part of Bwindi, this family offers stunning views of the Virunga Volcanoes and Lake Mutanda.
  7. Busingye Group: Led by the dominant silverback Busingye, this family is often found in the Buhoma area of Bwindi.
  8. Kyaguliro Group: Formerly known as the “Rwigi” group, this family underwent a name change and is found in the Ruhija area.
  9. Kahungye Group: Named after the Kahungye hills, this family is known for its large size and frequent movements across Bwindi.
  10. Bikyingi Group: Located in the Rushaga sector of Bwindi, this family is relatively new to habituation.
  11. Bishaho Group: Another recently habituated family in the Rushaga sector, named after the dominant silverback Bishaho.
  12. Bushaho Group: Comprising of 10 members, this group was formerly part of the larger Mishaya family.

 

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

virunga-gorilla-trekking

  1. Nyakagezi Group: The sole habituated gorilla family in Mgahinga, known for its large size and peaceful demeanor.

Gorilla Families in Bwindi  Forest Park 

Mubare Gorilla Family – Buhoma (Bwindi)

Ease of Tracking: Positioned advantageously, the Mubare family is the most accessible group to track in Bwindi. Its name originates from the pioneering gorilla trackers in the region.

Group Dynamics: With a current count of 8 members, led by Kanyonyi, the Mubare family holds the distinction of being Uganda’s oldest habituated gorilla group, established in 1993. Initially guided by Ruhondeza, the group’s numbers have dwindled over the years due to various factors such as infighting, migration, and death.

Historical Significance: Ruhondeza’s leadership came to an end in 2012 when another group attacked and took away his females. Despite this, Ruhondeza remained under the watchful eye of researchers until his passing, marking his grave for visitors to locate with the aid of a guide.

Habinyanja Gorilla Family – Buhoma (Bwindi)

Early Access to Tourists: Among the first groups opened to tourists, the Habinyanja family boasts 17 members, under the leadership of Makara, succeeding Habinyanja.

Naming and Evolution: Habituated in 1997, the group was initially led by the venerable silverback Mugurisi. The name “Habinyanja” stems from their initial sighting near a swamp in Bwindi. Mugurisi’s passing saw his brothers Rwansigazi and Mwirima taking over, each with distinct personality traits.

Separation and Succession: In 2002, the brothers amicably split the group, with Rwansigazi retaining the “Habinyanja” name, while Mwirima’s faction became known as the Rushegura family.

Rushegura Gorilla Family – Buhoma (Bwindi)

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Origins and Composition: Formed in 2002 from the split of the Habinyanja group, the Rushegura family comprises 19 members, including one silverback.

Name and Stability: The name “Rushegura” is derived from the “Ebishegura” tree species prevalent in the family’s territory. Led by the formidable Mwirima, the group’s stability and calm demeanor make them unreserved around human presence.

Bitukura Gorilla Family – Ruhija (Bwindi)

Leadership Transition: With 14 members remaining from its original 24, the Bitukura family is helmed by Ndahura, succeeding the retired Karamuzi. This group, featuring three other silverbacks, earned its name from a nearby river.

Habituation and Access: Remarkably, the Bitukura family underwent a shortened habituation process, taking only 15 months before welcoming visitors in October 2008. Despite their relatively recent introduction to tourism, encounters with park rangers were frequent due to interactions with the Kyaguriro family.

Oruzogo Gorilla Family – Ruhija (Bwindi)

Gorillas-sleeping

Group Size and Composition: With an impressive 25 members, including two silverbacks, the Oruzogo family is one of the largest in the Ruhija area. Tibirikwata leads this vibrant group, which first welcomed visitors in 2011.

Visitor Appeal: Renowned for its playful youngsters, the Oruzogo family is a favorite among visitors, thanks to several births from females Ntamurungi (June 2011), Musi (October 2011), and Kakoba (March 2012).

Nkuringo Gorilla Family – Nkuringo (Bwindi)

Historical Leadership: Initially led by the esteemed silverback Nkuringo, this family now comprises 19 individuals. Following Nkuringo’s passing in 2008, his legacy was carried on by two silverbacks, Rafiki and Safari, with Safari, his son, eventually assuming leadership.

Community Engagement: The Nkuringo family’s proximity to human settlements outside the park led to frequent encounters and conflicts. To mitigate this, the decision to habituate the group in 2008 aimed to foster community involvement in gorilla conservation and tourism, providing economic opportunities.

Nshongi Gorilla Family – Rushaga (Bwindi)

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Past and Present: Originally consisting of 37 individuals, the Nshongi family, with its 26 members and four silverbacks, was the largest habituated group. Noteworthy for its large size, the family experienced a split in 2010, with silverback Mishaya forming a new group.

Mishaya Gorilla Family – Rushaga (Bwindi)

Dominant Figure: Mishaya gained a reputation for his confrontational nature, often engaging in fights to protect his family and acquire females from neighboring groups. Despite sustaining injuries, Mishaya leads a group of 12 individuals as the sole dominant silverback.

Kahungye Gorilla Family – Rushaga (Bwindi)

Leadership Dynamics: Led by Rumansi, the Kahungye family consists of 13 members, including three silverbacks. Initially comprising 27 members, the family split shortly after habituation, forming the Busingye group.

Bweza Gorilla Family – Rushaga (Bwindi)

gorilla-families-in-uganda-bwindi-and-mgahinga-national-park

Origins and Evolution: Stemming from the Nshongi family, Bweza separated from Mishaya in 2012 with six members. Despite its smaller size, the group, led by Bweza, remains a fascinating sight for visitors.

Busingye Gorilla Family – Rushaga (Bwindi)

Leadership Traits: Led by the ambitious Busingye, this group of nine members split from the Kahungye family in 2012. Despite his name meaning “peace,” Busingye is known for his dominance and assertive behavior, often engaging in conflicts with neighboring groups.

yaguriro Gorilla Family – Ruhija (Bwindi)

Group Composition and Leadership: The Kyaguriro family, comprising 15 members, is under the leadership of Rukina, who assumed dominance after overthrowing the former leader, Zeus.

Research Focus: Distinguished by its designation for research purposes, the Kyaguriro group offers limited access to visitors, prioritizing conservation and scientific study.

Significance in Research: Conservationists and researchers have leveraged the Kyaguriro family to glean insights into gorilla behavior. Their studies have yielded intriguing findings, highlighting differences in behavioral tendencies among gorilla families across Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo. These insights contribute to a deeper understanding of gorilla ecology and inform conservation efforts in the region.

Nyakagezi Gorilla Family – Mgahinga National Park

gorilla-families-in-uganda-bwindi-and-mgahinga-national-park

Unique Habitat: Mgahinga National Park is home to a single habituated gorilla group, the Nyakagezi family.

Leadership Dynamics: Led by Mark, the dominant silverback, the Nyakagezi family consists of 10 members, including two other silverbacks.

Unpredictable Migration: The Nyakagezi family is known for its unpredictable movements, often migrating between Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo. This behavior can make viewing the family challenging for visitors.

Coordination for Viewing: Due to their unpredictable nature, visitors interested in viewing the Nyakagezi family are advised to coordinate with park authorities through their tour operators to determine the family’s exact location within the park. This ensures a smoother and more successful gorilla trekking experience.

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