For good reason, Uganda is known as one of the top sites in the world…
Gorilla Families in Uganda
There are 11 Habituated Gorilla families in Uganda and 1 group which is available for research. Gorilla Families in Uganda include: –
1. Rushegura 7. Mishaya 13. Nyakagezi
2. Habinyanja 8. Nshongi
3. Mubare 9. Kahungye
4. Nkuringo 10. Busingye
5. Bitukura 11. Bweza
6. Oruzogo 12. Kyaguriro
Plus, the two Gorilla groups that are tracked on the Gorilla Habituation Experience.
Rushegura Gorilla Family Group.
This group or family is as well referred to as the R-group, located in Buhoma (one of the sections in Bwindi Impenetrable National park) and having a family size of 18 members. Rushegura is a name derived from “Ebishegura”- a tree species that was abundant in the home area of the new family, of a place where the separation took place between this group from the larger family of Habinyanja in February 2002.The separation was started by “Mwirima” who took with him 7 members/ started with 12 individuals and with 5 females inclusive. Rushegura group is known to be the calmest family & usually stays in the vicinity of Buhoma village. They used to cross to neighboring DRC but now came back & enjoy the peaceful environments of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.Dont get surprised because they even wander around lodge gardens or visit the Souvenir shop of Gorilla forest camp as they are also very curious. Tracking time for this family group tends to be shorter in recent times since they have stayed around the park headquarters. This family group is headed by Kabukjo the silverback,4 Black backs,4 Adult females,3 Juveniles,4 Infants making it a total of 16
Habinanja Gorilla Family Group
This group is migratory, sometimes it can be sighted an hour’s time before arriving at Buhoma trail head but they reside more in the parts of the North end of the forest. The family was Habituated in 1997 & first visited by tourists in 1999. Habinanja is a name derived from Rukiga word “Nyanja” which simply means a place with water – near a swamp in Bwindi Impenetrable park the group was first seen/sighted. It is a larger family of 17 individuals with 2 silverbacks inclusive, being led by Makara(silverback) residing in Buhoma village (ranging from Kahororo – Rubon). It normally takes a full day-5 hours or more tracking this group. This family consists of 1 black-back,5 adult females,1 sub- adult,3 Juveniles & 6 infants. This family group is very fascinating with a lot of drama and commotion, this is due to the power struggles between the dominant silverbacks and family fights for leadership. The adult females are led by the shrewd alpha female called Kisho.
Mubare Gorilla family group
This family is the oldest habituated gorilla group in Uganda, located in Buhoma section of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with a size of 9 individuals including 1 silverback (Ruhondeza). The name was derived from Mubare hills, deep in Bwindi forest where Gorillas were first sighted by trackers and was fully habituated in 1993. This family started with 12 family members, headed by the dominant silverback” Ruhondeza”. In a few years the group grew to 18 individuals, unfortunately, due to fights with wild gorilla groups there was loss of members and death of a baby Gorilla. In the meantime, Ruhondeza successor Kanyonyi managed to expand the family again and increased it to eight members including a baby named Kashundwe.
Nkuringo Gorilla family group
The Nkuringo family name was derived from a Rukiga word “Round hill” and the habituation process was concluded in 2004. One of the most important reasons for their habituation were the problems they created for the surrounding local communities by feeding on their bananas, sweet potatoes and destroying their other crops, so by opening up the gorilla family for visitors, the community turns out to directly benefit from tourism by opening up the gorilla family for tourists and it formed a protection ground for the gorillas as well. The family is located in Nkuringo having 19 members with 2 silverbacks inclusive, initially the family was led by the silverback” Nkuringo” who died in April 2008, leaving behind 2 silverbacks (Safari & Rafiki) in the family. In November 2008, the Nkuringo family expanded and gave birth to twins Katungi & Muhozi. Unfortunately, Katungi died at the age of 1.5 years due to illness. Please note that gorilla families in Uganda keep changing as more members are born, others die and other gorilla families in Uganda separate to produce more families.
Bitukura Gorilla Family Group
The Bitukura Gorilla group family consists of 12 members including 4 silverbacks, located in Ruhija (Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and this family learns so quickly- so normally it takes two years of habituation training but this family was ready for tourists/visitors in 15 months. Gorilla groups gain and lose members and the Bitukura group originally consisted of 24 gorillas however other groups recruit, in the gorilla family there are feuds and some gorillas simply leave rather than fight. Unlike some other families, this family gets along with one another, there has been peace and harmony in the group and no usual infighting that is found in other groups. The Gorilla Family is being led by Ndahura and consists of 4 silverbacks, 4 adult females, 2 juveniles ever playful and 3 infants. It is unusual to have these many Silverbacks in one group but they get along. If you want to track the Bitikura Gorilla Group, it is best to stay in the Ruhija area of the park, if you do stay in Buhoma – you have to leave quite early in order to make the gorilla tracking activity in time.
Oruzogo Gorilla Family Group
The Oruzogo group is the second habituated gorilla family living in the Ruhija village area. This family consists of 17 individuals and headed by Tibirikwata (Silverback). The family opened greatly for tourism in the mid-2011, not because of its size but due to the playful Juveniles & toddlers in the group that keeps the tourists entertained and since then it has experienced growth thanks to a number of births. Female adult Ntamurungi gave birth to a baby gorilla in June 2011 and Musi gave birth in October 2011. More joy came when a set of twins was born in March 2012.Having the twin mother called “Kakoba”. There are also other members in the family like Busungu (meaning “short tempered”), Kaganga (“the giant one”) and Bwoba (“the coward”).
Mishaya Gorilla Family group
This is another family of Gorillas which resides in Rushaga section of Bwindi forest and gorilla trekking is one of the main activity practiced. This group consists of 12 members led by “Mishaya” who is a fighter with 1 dominant silverback. Note carefully in the world of gorilla families again like in our human families and friendship groups that number can change. there is a silverback which brings in other females into their groups or be joined by break-away members of other groups. The Gorilla Family Group was originally part of the Nshongi Gorilla Family Group but instead broke away from the group. By the end of 2015, the group was 7 gorillas but like we noticed earlier, gorilla families sometimes are joined by friends or even acquire more member in successful battles.The leader of the Mishaya gorilla group is Mishaya and he is a fighter – not too long ago the gorilla family was in a battle with another un-habituated gorilla group and some members of the group were treated for injuries.
Nshongi Gorilla Family Group
This is the largest family group ever habituated, located in Rushaga covers a size of 36 members and including 5 silverbacks. It was officially opened for tourism in September 2009. This family was named after the river close where the family was first sighted,” Nshongi” derived from “Omushongi Gwoboki”. NB. most gorilla families in Uganda usually do consist of 25 individuals with 1/2 silverbacks, this family is a rare group, what is more remarkable is that the three silverbacks and seven black backs lived in peace with each other and did not make/have fights for leadership. The Nshongi Gorilla family group is led by Nshongi, who is not even the oldest silverback in the family.
Kahungye Gorilla Family Group
This family group is one of the most recently habituated Gorilla family in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and was opened up for tourism in October 2011 but in less than a year this family split up forming a new group called Busingye. Before the separation this family consisted of 27 members and 3 silverbacks. Dominant Silverback” Gwigi” is the leader of this family, and the name “Gwigi” means “door” in the local language.
Busingye Gorilla Family Group
After having been formed out of the split of Kahungye family group, this group has got 7 members including 1 silverback. It’s located in Rushaga section of Bwindi. This family is the newest group gotten out of the Kahungye family split. “Busingye means Peace “surprisingly this ambitious silverback is known for his legendary fighting with other gorilla families, he likes showing his power/dominancy and whenever encountering a wild family he mercilessly grabs a female to add to his own family.
Bweza Gorilla family group
Bweza Gorilla family group resides in the section of Rushaga with 9 individuals including 1 silverback. Originally Nshongi Family group was the largest group ever habituated but in July 2010 silverback Mishaya also began its own group, later 2 years Bweza another silverback decided to separate himself from the rest of the families. According to the Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers they thought that they would get back together but instead drifted further and hence this family (Bweza) was opened up for Tourism in December 2012.
Kyaguriro Gorilla family group
Although the Kyaguriro family is habituated, it has not been visited by tourists/visitors until now but it is put aside for research purposes only. It consists of 15 individuals including 2 silverbacks and resides in Ruhija section of Bwindi. By closely keeping contact with this group, conservationists have been able to learn a lot about the mountain gorillas of Bwindi, including some remarkable differences with the mountain gorillas that live in the Virunga Volcanoes. Initially the family was headed by an aging silverback “Zeus”. Unfortunately, he died in exile after being banished into the forest by his rival” Rukina”.
Nyakagezi Gorilla Family group
Nyakagezi Group is only hosted by Mgahinga National park and being led by the dominant silverback called “Mark” who likes travelling and keeps on crossing borders between Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. The family consists of individuals including 3 silverbacks. Lately it seems they are trying to regain their Ugandan citizenship again as they have been back in Mgahinga National Park since November 2012 and are likely to stay for a longer while. In May 2013 more good news came in when a new baby was born, increasing the group to 10 members. Due to quite unpredictable behaviour, permits for this group can only be booked at the park headquarters of Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Below are extracts of the habituated Gorilla groups in Volcanoes National Park (Rwanda).
1.Susa Gorilla Family 6. Hirwa Gorilla Family
2.Sabyinyo Gorilla family 7. Karisimbi Gorilla Family
3.Amahoro Gorilla Family 8. Agashya Gorilla Family
4. Umubano Gorilla Family 9. Ugenda Gorilla family
5.Kwitonda Gorilla family 10. Bwenga Gorilla Family
Susa Gorilla Family (Susa A)
This is the biggest mountain Gorilla family in Volcanoes National Park, it consists of 33 members & 2 silverbacks but had a total of 42 members before the split. Its name is derived from River Susa which runs through the area where Susa Gorilla group normally calls home. This family has exciting things like the twins (Impano & Byihimo) therein and being the first family Diana Fossey studied about in her earlier years in Rwanda (1985). Not only that this group turns out to be the hardest to track yet the most preferred by most Gorilla trekkers. Susa A inhabits the lower base of Mount Karisimbi.
Sabyinyo Gorilla Family
It consists of 13 members & 2 silverbacks and its name is derived from Mountain Sabyinyo which is shared by Uganda & Rwanda, though these mountain Gorillas are mainly on the Rwandan side of mountain Sabyinyo. This family came into existence after the death of the dominant silverback that led the family for over 13 years. It has the biggest silverback “Guhonda” who is their leader and” Ryango” silverback who is the second in command. It has 3 adult females & 3 Juvenile Gorillas This is the easiest family to trek among all the Gorilla families in Volcanoes National Park and this is because it normally roams on the gentle slopes of mountain Sabyinyo and this makes it relatively easy to track. So in case you are out there looking for the easier Gorilla family to trek it’s no other than the Sabyinyo Gorilla family.
Amahoro Gorilla family
Another word to mean” Peace” in Kinyarwanda is “Amohoro” therefore this family is very peaceful. Due to its peaceful character it has caused it to loose members to other aggressive silverbacks that seek to have their families expanded. This family is led by “Ubumwe” silverback which means Togetherness. Amahoro Gorilla family is hard to track since it resides on the slopes of mountain Visoke whose terrain is strenuous, also consists of 18members including 2 silverbacks (5 Juveniles gorillas,5 adult females,4 young gorillas). If you have got a peaceful character in nature and love peace as well then you might have to book your permits for trekking this gorilla group.
Agashya Gorilla family
This family is formerly called group 13 but due to the better conservation methods implemented by the Government of Rwanda, it got its initial number of 13 members that started the family. It was initially headed by “Nyakarima” silverback who was later overthrown by Dominant leader “Agashya” leading till today. Agashya is derived from the word “News” and the family was named after him. This family consists of a tally of 25 compared to before (1 dominant silverback,3 Juveniles, 7 young Gorillas. They also roam and occupy the foothills of mountain Mgahinga & Sabyinyo. It is also on record that Agashya is so protective and every time it senses danger he directs the whole Gorilla group to move from downhill to uphill. Contact Adventure in the Wild Safaris for more information on this group as well as availability of gorilla permits.
Umubano Gorilla Family
With 7 members including 1 Silverback, Umubano gorilla group was formed by members of the Amahoro family after one of its Silverbacks called” Charles”, one of the other males broke off to form his own family. Despite the peace in Amahoro group, Charles and Ubumwe have endless fights until Charles could not take it any more leading to the formation of the birth of Umubano Gorilla Group. Apparently, this group lives in the same territory with the Amahoro Group.
Kwitonda Gorilla Family
Kwitonda gorilla group has a huge size of 18 members including 2 Silverbacks. It resides on the Mountain slopes of Muhabura and got its name derived from the late dominant silverback called “Kwitonda”, which means “humble one “a leader who was popularly known for his humble character. This group previously stayed in the Democratic Republic of Congo but migrated to Volcanoes National Park(Rwanda) For this same reason, it resides on the slopes of Mountain Muhabura.
Hirwa Gorilla Family
Hirwa family is a new Gorilla group and consists of 8 members including 1 Silverback.” Hirwa means lucky one It was formed by members from the Sabinyo family and group 13 but later on more members kept on joining to increase the number of members to 16. This family resides between the mountains of Mount Gahinga and mountain Sabyinyo. It is the luckiest in the park and slots among the few that managed to get twins. Their twins were born in the year 2011. The word ‘Hirwa’ means ‘Lucky One’. Need some luck or rather are you lucky? You might definitely want to gorilla trek to see this group.
Karisimbi Gorilla Family
This family stays on the slopes of mountain Karisimbi, consisting of 16 members with 1 silverback inclusive. Karisimbi family is a break away fraction of the Susa family. Karisimbi gorilla family is currently the hardest to trek because it stays on the upper slopes of Mount Karisimbi which is on an altitude of 4507m. In order for this group to keep calm and stay out of trouble, its silverback took it to a very far place which is hard to reach.
Ugenda Gorilla family
This family consists of 11 members including 2 Silverbacks.’ Ugenda’ means ‘mobile’ which partly relates to the mobility of this group. This gorilla group is always on the move and hardly settles in one specific place. Ugenda family apparently resides on Mount Bisoke and hiking is relatively not very difficult. If you feel like you might find a hard time trek because of your physical status, then you ought to reserve your permits for this group.
Bwenge Gorilla family
Bwenge “wisdom”. This family consists of 11 members with 1 silverback inclusive. It usually resides on the slopes of Mount Visoke and the hiking is relatively easy. Anyway for lazy trekkers, this group is workable for your trekking. Bwenge family came into existence in the year 2007 by Bwenge who had the group named after him. This family initially left his native group and was joined by a few female individuals from other Gorilla families. Bwenge witnessed a very dark time when 6 of its infants died.
Munyaga Family-being headed by Munyaga (dominant silver back) and Bilali (dominant female) consists of 7 gorillas, located in Bukima near Goma section and the most recent discovered and habituated family. Kabirizi Family which is found near the Goma section, contains 34 members with 2 silverbacks being headed by Kabirizi (Dominant silver back), Lulengo Family found in Jomba near Bunagana, has gotten 6 gorillas with 1 silverback, led by Lulengo himself. Humba Family which consists of 16 Gorillas 1 silverback(Humba) found in Bukima near Goma section, this is the calmest family in this park. Mapuwa Family…resides in Jomba near Bunagana, contains 15 members with 1 silverback (Mapuwa heading and so protective) son to Rugendo and brother to Humba. Rugendo Family- this family contains 6 members with 3 silver backs, first habituated group in 1989.