INTRODUCTION ABOUT GORILLAS

What is a Gorilla?

Gorillas are herbivorous, primarily surface-dwelling giant apes that live in equatorial Africa’s tropical woodlands. Gorilla is classified into two species: eastern and western gorillas, as well as four to five subspecies. Gorilla DNA is 95 to 99% comparable to human DNA, based on what is included, and they are the next closest living cousins to humans after chimps and bonobos.

The term “gorilla” comes from an old tale by a Carthaginian explorer who sailed along Africa’s west coast almost 2,500 years ago. Locals gave him their moniker for the huge ape, referring to “hairy person” in rough English.

Gorillas are the largest living primates, with heights ranging from 1.25 to 1.8 meters, weights ranging from 100 to 270 kg, and arm lengths reaching 2.6 meters depending upon species and sex. They usually dwell in groups, with their leader being referred to as a silverback. The Eastern gorilla differs from the Western gorilla by having darker fur and a few other minor physical characteristics. In the wild, gorillas can live for 35-40 years.

The different types of Gorillas

Western lowland gorilla

The Western lowland gorilla is the smallest of the three subspecies, weighing roughly 180 kg for an adult male and living in West African tropical forests. Lowland gorillas resemble one another in appearance. The most prevalent form of gorilla found at zoological establishments is the western lowland gorilla, which is the species cared for at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Mountain gorillas

Mountain gorillas are the largest and most endangered of the three subspecies. Adult males can weigh more than 227 kg. They can be found at high altitudes in the Virunga Volcano range, which separates the Democratic Republic of the Congo from Rwanda and Uganda. Because of the cooler environment at high elevations, their hair is longer and darker than that of their lowland counterparts. Mountain gorillas are taller, with a more pointed skull, and a bigger gap in the center of the nose, and do not have the golden patch of hair on their heads as lowland gorillas do.

Eastern lowland gorilla

The eastern lowland gorilla is a little bit bigger in size and coloring than the western lowland gorilla, weighing up to 220 kg. They live in the central African rainforests.

However, Gorillas were scientifically reclassified in 2001 as a result of mitochondrial DNA studies and physical differences. The new categorization divides gorillas into two species: the eastern and western gorillas. The two species are considered to have separated about 2 million years ago, and each has two subspecies as explained below

  • The eastern lowland gorilla and the mountain gorilla are the two subspecies of the eastern gorilla.
  • It has been proposed that there exists a third subspecies of eastern gorillas since a tiny group of mountain gorillas in Uganda’s Bwindi National Park exhibit different anatomy, ecology, and behavior. Because mountain gorilla populations are small and testing samples are scarce, it is difficult to determine whether the two populations are physically and genetically distinct enough to be considered separate subspecies.
  • The two subspecies of the western gorilla are the western lowland gorilla and the Cross River gorilla.

Characteristics of Gorillas

  • Adult male Western lowland gorillas measure around 1.7 m in length and weigh about 169.5 kg. Adult females have a body length of 1.5 m (59.1 in.) and weigh 71.5 kg.
  • Male mountain gorillas can weigh up to 220 kg, while females weigh around 97.7 kg.
  • Because of their cautious character, Cross River gorillas have proven difficult to research. However, an adult male is estimated to weigh around 180 kg.
  • Eastern lowland gorillas are slightly larger than western lowland gorillas, with adult males weighing up to 220 kg and females weighing around 80 kg.
  • Western lowland adult male gorillas have a body length of roughly 1.7 m and a peculiar form in which their stomachs are wider than their chests. Their huge stomachs are due to larger intestines, which metabolize the dense fibrous plants they ingest.
  • Gorillas’ arms have greater muscles than their legs. This is partly because they employ their enhanced power of arms for bending and harvesting leaves, as well as for defense. Despite the fact that they can walk upright on two feet, they usually walk as a quadruped.
  • The arms of gorillas are substantially longer than their legs, and their arm span is around 30 cm longer than that of an adult male human. Even though gorillas are now mainly terrestrial, their elongated arms suggest a tree-dwelling ancestry.
  • The upper extremity strength of an adult gorilla is six times that of an adult human, allowing them to lift, break, and squeeze heavy things.
  • Gorillas have dark skin and hair that ranges from black to brown-grey. When males reach adulthood, they develop silver-gray saddles across their backs and upper thighs, earning them the nickname Silverback. This silver-gray area contrasts with their in general dark coloration, creating an appearance of more length and size. Mountain gorillas have long, silky hair, whereas lowland gorillas have short, sparse hair. Hairless adult gorillas have hairless fingers, palms, soles, noses, lips, ears, and chests.
  • Gorillas have 32 teeth, which is the same as humans. Gorillas have huge, powerful teeth that are adapted to the coarse plants they eat. As they grow older, adult males have large, sharp canines. Gorillas, like humans, have two complete sets of teeth throughout their lives. As adults, their primary set (similar to baby teeth) is lost and replaced with their permanent set.
  • A gorilla’s head is huge, with a bulging forehead that overhangs the eyes and a bony sagittal crest on top. The sagittal crest provides support for the massive temporal muscles required for grinding coarse plants.
  • Gorillas’ thumbs and big toe counter the other digits (fingers/toes), allowing them to grab and handle items. All primates have distinctive thumbprints and toe prints that can be used to identify them in the field. Due to their opposable big toe, gorillas are capable of manipulating objects with both their feet and their arms. Instead of claws, primates have fingernails as well as toenails. They are used to open, scrape, clean, and scratch.
  • When agitated or stressed, adult male gorillas have huge apocrine (scent) glands in their armpits that generate a distinctive stench. Apocrine and eccrine (sweat) glands in gorillas moisturize both the palms of their hands and the bottoms of their feet.
  • Unlike monkeys, gorillas don’t have tails.
  • The nasal areas of gorillas are quite different in terms of shape and wrinkles, and researchers utilize them to identify specific species in the field.

Gorilla Family Structure and Reproductive system or cycle

A gorilla group is often led by a male regarded as the silverback. The silverback is the dominant male in the group, which includes infants, young adults, adult mature gorillas, and females. A gorilla group consists of approximately 30 individual gorillas, with the silverback directing migration and activity. It is critical to note that gorillas hardly seldom have disputes within themselves. Conflicts involving two gorilla groups are more uncommon. Usually, lone male gorillas engage in combat with a gorilla group, and this is usually highly violent. Other adult male gorillas are able to assist the silverback overcome the battle with the lone gorilla.

The reproductive cycle, Courtship, and mating

Female gorillas reach maturity at 10-12 years (earlier in captivity), while males reach maturity at 11-13 years. The first ovulatory cycle of a girl occurs when she is six years old, followed by a two-year phase of adolescent infertility. The estrous cycle lasts 30-33 days, with outward ovulation symptoms that are subtler than in chimps. The gestation period is 8.5 months long. Female mountain gorillas give birth for the first time at the age of ten, with four-year inter-birth intervals. Males can become reproductive before they reach adulthood. Gorillas mate all year.

The dominant silverback has complete access to the females. When males reach adulthood, the majority of them leave. When they leave their father’s group, they either go it alone or band together with other bachelor males until they can steal females from other groups. To avoid inbreeding, most females abandon their father’s group. According to research, females who stay with their initial groups for an extended period of time will shun the dominant silverback in order to prevent inbreeding. The female would much rather mate with the group’s male subordinates rather than with her father. Even if she is coerced, the chances of a gorilla conceiving from the father are extremely low, unless in cross-river gorilla families where inbreeding is rampant.

As soon as ovulation begins, the dominant silverback mates with all females in the group. The moment a female gorilla is ready to mate is not physically visible, as it is with chimps. Most of the time, the female initiates the mating process as soon as she is ready. When a female gorilla is ready to mate, she approaches the dominant male gently, maintains eye contact, and purses her lips. If the guy does not answer, she will draw his attention by slapping the ground as she approaches him. If the dominant male is too preoccupied or fails to respond after repeated efforts, she may be willing to mate with other males in the group.

A 1982 study discovered that a silverback’s hostility toward a specific female led her to commence the mating process even when she wasn’t in estrus. Mating takes place on the ground, with the silverback on top of the smaller female. As the female finishes the copulation process, she appears to kneel down. Face-to-face intercourse was assumed to be unique to bonobos and humans, but some gorilla species (mountain and western lowland gorillas) have been photographed having sex while gazing directly at one other.

Sex for rivalry and pleasure is not uncommon in gorillas. To prevent the dominant silverback from mating with other females, female gorillas frequently utilize sex to obtain their favor. There have even been reports of pregnant females mating with silverbacks in order to prevent other fertile females from conceiving. The silverback’s attentiveness to a fertile/ovulating female tends to incite rivalry among females in the group. The dominant silverback tends to mate with older, more seasoned mothers across every gorilla subspecies. In broad terms, male western gorillas mate with every female in the group, whether or whether she is fertile. Silverback mountain gorillas will only mate with a fertile female.

What happens after they mate?

If the mating is successful, the female will have an approximately 8.5-month pregnancy period. Female gorillas give birth every four years.  When she conceives, the shape of the bump alters and the breast grows in size, though not as dramatically as in humans. On the day of birth, the female appears uncomfortable, eats, and stretches a lot. Typically, she gives birth in the morning. A female gorilla will have approximately eight kids during her lifetime, but only a handful will survive to adulthood. Males are not active caregivers, and the infant is solely dependent on the mother for survival. The Silverback’s function is to make sure young infants are accepted by the rest of the group. He will guard them against bullying by other members of the group, thus the mother will stay close to the dominant silverback for added safety throughout the first five months.

For the first four months, the female carries the infant with her hands. During the initial four months, the baby suckles every three hours from the mother’s breast. Following four months, the baby will ride on the mother’s back and will gain enough confidence to move a few meters away from the mother for brief periods of time. It will be sufficiently assured to move a distance of five meters far from the mother by the time it is 12 months old. By their second year, the gap between the mother and baby has grown even further, and they are spending more time apart. At thirty months of age, the mother weans the infant. Infants will generally nurse until they are about four years old. When the infant is weaned, it begins to build its own nest, and the mother begins to ovulate again.

Gorillas have a high mortality rate, with over half not reaching adulthood. One reason for their high mortality is that they rely on their moms for a lengthy period of time. Changes in group dynamics, as well as the entrance or takeover of a new silverback, are equivalent to a death sentence for all infants who are still nursing. In order to successfully mate with adult females, the silverback will normally murder all infants.

How Gorillas Communicate

Because gorillas live in dense rainforests where group members cannot always see each other, they communicate primarily through vocalizations. Silverback males are the loudest because of their function as group leaders. Gorillas communicate by facial expressions, sounds, postures, and gestures, among other things. They have been observed making at least 22 distinct noises to transmit various emotions, ranging from joyful laughter to fearful cries and even contented belches. Gorillas are loving creatures.

The most significant way for newly born gorillas to attract their mother’s attention to their requirements is through vocalizations (whimpering, weeping, and screaming). When a baby begins to move away from its mother, it begins to use grunting vocalizations. These are the gorillas’ most important vocalizations, which are commonly classed as ‘grunts’ and ‘barks’ and their various variations. They can accompany social interactions and indicate the whereabouts of particular group members. Adults make eight such vocalizations every hour on average, most of which occur when traveling. These sounds are likely to identify group members.

However, the gorillas’ body postures and facial expressions also indicate their mood. Certain behavior patterns involve specific body postures and frequently necessitate the participation of another animal. Postures that indicate a partner’s mood or intention are occasionally employed for communication over longer distances; this is especially true for show behavior.

Overall, the senses of gorillas are similar to those of humans. They communicate with their conspecifics using all of their senses, not just hearing and sight, but also touching and smelling. Silverback males have a distinct odor. In perilous circumstances, they also generate a very distinctive scent that can be smelt from a long distance away and alarms the group without making any noise.

Gorilla feeding pattern

A gorilla’s day is divided into two parts: rest and travel or feeding. Dietary patterns change between and within species. Mountain gorillas mostly consume foliage, such as leaves, stems, piths, and shoots, with fruit accounting for only a small portion of their diet. Mountain gorilla food is broadly distributed, thus neither individuals nor groups face competition. Their home ranges range from 3 to 15 km2, and their daily travels are limited to 500 m or fewer. Mountain gorillas have versatile diets and may live in a range of habitats despite eating only a few species in each habitat.

An adult gorilla consumes up to 30 kilograms of food per day, whereas a female gorilla consumes 18 kg per day. Gorillas consume a lot of soil, which breaks down the harmful chemicals in their food and also includes minerals that are lacking in their regular diet. Gorillas cannot eat or swallow large creatures, however, they do eat small animals, including insects, which account for only 1% of their diet.

Although both mountain and lowland gorillas have been observed drinking water, gorillas rarely drink water since they consume succulent vegetation that is composed of nearly half water as well as morning dew.

Where to find Gorillas

Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda are home to wild gorillas. Although most tourists visit Uganda and Rwanda to track gorillas, West African countries offer even more incredible primate adventures.

Where to find Gorillas in Uganda

Uganda is a great site to watch mountain gorillas. Half of the world’s mountain gorilla population lives in Uganda, namely in two national parks: Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park. Mgahinga has only one habituated gorilla group, whereas Bwindi has 17. Mountain gorillas in Mgahinga prefer higher elevations, whilst those in Bwindi prefer lower terrain. Many of Uganda’s gorilla groups are still wild due to their high population. Uganda is also the sole nation where one can participate in a gorilla habituation experience. This one-of-a-kind experience entails studying the primates for approximately four hours, as opposed to traditional gorilla trekking, which allows tourists only one hour with a gorilla troop. Uganda also has a broader variety of wildlife and activities that visitors can participate in after seeing the gorillas. Uganda is undoubtedly the superior gorilla trekking destination, but the government is not as zealous in promoting the pastime as Rwanda. The driving distance from Kampala or Entebbe to Bwindi or Mgahinga is rather long, which deters some tourists. Many people prefer to cross into Uganda from Rwanda to avoid the long drive. Mountain gorillas are quite likely to be seen in Uganda (almost 99% success).

Where to find Gorillas in Rwanda

Rwanda ranks as one of the finest places in the world to see mountain gorillas in the wild. Rwanda is home to roughly 30% of the remaining mountain gorilla population. Rwanda’s gorillas can all be located in the Volcanoes National Park. Dian Fossey, the famous primatologist, founded a base here in the 1960s to study the way of life of these amazing creatures. Gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park is quite popular, attracting thousands of visitors each year. Rwanda now has eleven habituated mountain gorilla populations. Rwanda is believed to be the best destination in the world to see mountain gorillas. Rwanda is ideal for gorilla viewing because to its well-developed tourism infrastructure and more professional services.

Where to find Gorillas in Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the only nation where three gorilla subspecies may be found. The Virunga National Park is home to mountain gorillas. Eastern lowland gorillas can be found in Kahuzi Biega National Park, and western lowland gorillas can be found in the country’s extreme west, along the Madiakoko Mountains. Due to insecurity in the country’s east, travelers can currently only visit the Virunga and Kahuzi Biega National Parks to see gorillas. There is a good probability of spotting eastern lowland gorillas in Kahuzi Biega and mountain gorillas in Virunga. Western lowland gorillas are rarely seen since they migrate to Angola and back.

The best time to go for Gorilla trekking in Rwanda and Uganda

To any tourist considering a trip, Uganda is known as a year-round travel destination. This is because of its climate and proximity to the equator. Another feature that makes Uganda a year-round vacation destination is Lake Victoria and its distinctive weather patterns. Uganda has two rainy seasons: the short season, which runs from October to November, and the long season, which runs from mid-March to the end of May. As a result, the best months to undertake gorilla trekking in Uganda are June, July, August, and September. If that isn’t doable, January and February should be fine.

Mountain gorillas can be tracked at any time of year since their travels are not impacted by the changing seasons. Even though we will cover the benefits and drawbacks of coming at different times of the year, tourists need not be too picky about which month to go trekking. In our experience, the best time to go gorilla tracking is shortly after the rainy season has ended, when the terrain is still lush and fertile. Getting this period right is difficult given that global warming has significantly altered weather patterns in Africa, making it harder to estimate the beginning and conclusion of the rainy and dry seasons.

Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, like most equatorial countries, have two seasons: dry and wet. The dry season lasts from December to February, and then again from June to September. There are benefits to going gorilla trekking during the dry season. It is also the greatest season to visit Kenya’s Masai Mara, Tanzania’s Serengeti, and Uganda’s many national parks. Visitors can easily combine gorilla trekking with a safari to view the wildebeest migration, as well as safaris in Uganda’s Murchison Falls or Queen Elizabeth National Park. Because there is no mist or overgrown vegetation, this is the best time to take good, clear photos of the countryside, physical features, and mountain gorillas.

Rules and regulations for Gorilla trekking

Before going for Gorilla tracking

  • Tracking requires a minimum age of 15 years. If you are traveling with children under the age of 15, they will also be given an activity.
  • The maximum number of guests per gorilla group is eight. This is to reduce gorilla behavioral disruption and the possibility of exposure to human-borne pathogens in accordance with the Gorilla Trekking Rules-Regulations.
  • After being allocated gorilla families for trekking, briefing and debriefing will take place in small groups of 8 guests.
  • Visitors, employees, and porters who are found to be ill with flu, diarrhea, stomach distress, malaria, or other illnesses will be denied access to the mountain gorillas during the briefing.

On the way to the Gorillas

  • Please keep your voice low in the jungle so as not to disturb the gorillas’ calm. This will also allow you to see other natural wonders such as birds, monkeys, and butterflies in the forest.
  • Do not leave trash in the forest. If you have a backpack, please put all of your waste in it and empty it at a specified place when you return to the briefing point.
  • Stick to the group and follow your guide across the trekking paths for your own safety.
  • As you approach the point where the rangers observed the mountain gorillas the day before, you will receive your final briefing before proceeding to the family’s location. Trekkers are often urged to leave their walking sticks and luggage at this point.
  • Human waste should be buried at a depth of 30cm.

When your  see the Gorillas

  • Keep a safe distance of around 7 meters from the Gorillas at all times. The further you are from them, the more relaxed they are, and hence the better the experience you will have with them.
  • Maintain contact with your group members.
  • Keep your voice down at all times. However, it is acceptable to question the guide.
  • Avoid eating or smoking around the gorillas because this may result in illness transmission.
  • When gorillas get violent, you should follow the ranger guides’ lead by kneeling down gently, never looking directly into the gorillas’ eyes, and remaining still as you wait for them to pass, as running away causes them to attack.
  • Take images without using a flash. The use of flash photography is not permitted in the park!
  • Do not approach the gorillas to get a closer look. They are still wild, despite being habituated.
  • The maximum time spent in the presence of the gorillas is one hour, but if they become agitated, the guide will suggest you to leave sooner; please follow this advice.
  • Maintain lower voices when moving away from the gorillas until you are 200 meters away from them.

The Gorilla Trekking permits in Uganda, Congo, and Rwanda

The world’s largest population of mountain gorillas is found in Uganda, Rwanda, and Congo, rendering these nations destinations of choice for eco-tourists wishing to observe these threatened creatures. Thousands of travelers come to Uganda and Rwanda each year to undertake gorilla trekking. These visits provide an up-close contact with these wonderful creatures, however they also assist to fund mountain gorilla conservation. Every visitor must obtain a permit to see the mountain gorillas.

Permits can be obtained via a tour operator or safari business that purchased the permits from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in Uganda and the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) in Rwanda. A gorilla permit costs $800 in Uganda by 1 july 2024, $1500 in Rwanda, and $400 in Congo per person for each trek

Gorilla Habituation process permit

The process of acclimating wild gorillas to the presence of humans is known as gorilla habituation. This is critical for gorilla tourism because it allows people to engage securely with these wonderful animals. Gorilla habituation licenses cost extra than standard gorilla permits because they allow visitors to spend four hours with the gorillas instead of just one.

You can contribute to the extra time required to gradually acclimate the gorillas to human presence. This procedure is critical for both human and gorilla safety, and it helps to ensure that gorilla tourism has a low impact on gorilla populations. In Uganda, gorilla habituation permits cost $1500 and guarantee you four hours with the gorillas.

The parks where Gorillas are found in East Africa

Mgahinga gorilla national park

Mgahinga gorilla national park is Uganda’s smallest protected area, located in the Kisoro district, that borders Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and it has a population of about 80 gorilla individuals, with only one habituated gorilla family and a recently migrated Rwandan family.

Nyakagezi Gorilla family

A section of the park called Nyakagezi bears this gorilla family’s name. Until recently, this was the only gorilla family in Mgahinga that tourists could truck. In previous years, the Nyakagezi gorilla group traversed the Virunga ranges, however, it has since settled and has restricted its movements to primarily Mgahinga for the past ten years. There are 10 individuals in the family, including 3 kids, 2 adult females, and 5 silverbacks.  The silverbacks Mark, Mafia, Rukundo, Ndugutse, and Bugingo, as well as Nshuti and Nyiramwiza, two adult females, and Mutagamba, Baby Nshuti, and Fred, three young children, make up Nyakagezi’s family.

Hirwa gorilla family

Hirwa is a Kinyarwanda name that means “lucky one,” and this is another gorilla family that traveled in October 2019 from Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Munyinga Silverback, the first leader of the Hirwa family, and the dominating leader of the Susa group had confusion, and Munyinga departed with two adult females to create his own group. Uburanga is the group’s leader. Hirwa group consists of 13 individuals, such as 1 Silverback, 2 Adult females, 2 Black-backs, 2 Sub-adult females, 3 Juveniles, and 3 Infants. This clan is famous for producing the world’s second surviving twins (Isango Gakuru and Isango Gato, born to adult female Kabatwa).

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

One of only two locations in Uganda where you can trek and observe the spectacular Mountain Gorillas in their native habitat is Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, National Park. It is renowned as the greatest location for mountain gorilla trekking because it is home to more than half of the only remaining population of mountain gorillas in the world. The park was recognized as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site and is home to one of Africa’s oldest forests. There are over 50 gorilla families in Bwindi, 21 of which have been habituated for gorilla trekking activities.

Gorilla tracking in Bwindi Forest National Park takes place in four areas, namely Rushaga, Buhoma, Ruhija, and Nkuringo, as stated below.

BUHOMA SECTOR

The most fascinating and popular sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is Buhoma Sector, which is situated in the park’s northern region. Buhoma Sector was the initial sector to be authorized for trekking with the Mubare Gorilla Family also to receive trekkers. The Buhoma sector consists of three gorilla families;

Mubare Gorilla Family: The Mubare Gorilla Family was the first gorilla group to be available for gorilla trekking. This group, which currently comprises of five members, was originally habituated in the Mubare Hills, where they were first spotted, in 1992. Featuring 1 adult female, 2 sub-adult females, and 1 child, the Mubare gorilla family is led by Kanyonyi, a dominant silverback.

Rushegura gorilla family: The Rushegura gorilla family separated from the Habinyanja gorilla group in 2000, the same year that it was habituated and made available for trekking. There are 19 gorillas in this family, and while trekking through it, you can see Mwirima, the dominating silverback and group leader, Kabukojo, the blackbuck, and several other gorillas. Five adult female gorillas, namely Kyirinvi, Kibande, Buzinza, Nyamunwa, and Karungyi; two sub-adult female gorillas, namely Kalembezi and Ruterana; five adolescent gorillas, namely Nyampazi, Kafuruka, Kibande, Karungyi, and Kanywanyi; and five baby gorillas, namely Kyirinvi, Buzinza, Nyamun.

Habinyanja Gorilla family: One of the earliest Gorilla groups to welcome visitors was this particular group. There are 17 members of the group, and Makara, who took Habinyanja’s place, is the leader. After becoming acclimated, this group was commanded by Silverback Mugurisi in 1997. Due to its first discovery being next to a marsh in Bwindi, the group was given the name “Habinyanja” (place with water) in Rukiga.

The Binyindo gorilla group

The Binyindo group, which consists of 6 individuals and 1 silverback, is located in the Buhoma area of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This gorilla family is the most recent addition to the Buhoma area of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It was monitored by rangers and researchers for three years before it was made available to the public.

Katwe gorilla family

The Katwe gorilla family is the newest family in the Buhoma sector, which is found on the northern end of Bwindi. The family consists of one dominant silverback, two blackbacks, four adult females, and two infants. In 2018, the family was made available for tracking

Muyambi gorilla family

The Muyambi gorilla family is the newest group in the Buhoma district of Bwindi, having been established in early 2019. The family consists of six individuals. Muyambi was an adult family member of the Mubare family who broke away from his immediate family to form the Muyambi group. The gorillas are fascinating to observe as they go about their everyday lives of eating, conversing, resting, and moving on the ground and in the trees

RUHIJA SECTOR

Ruhija is the greatest and undoubtedly most wonderful sector of Bwindi. The sector is located at an elevation of 2,340 meters in the hills bordering the park’s eastern boundary. It was opened for gorilla trekking in 2008 and now has four habituated gorilla families. These include;

Bitukura gorilla family: Bitukura gorilla family consists of 14 family members, including four silverbacks, four adult families, two juveniles, three infants, and one baby. This family was acclimatized in 2007 and originally comprised 24 family members, however, the group recently encountered numerous conflicts, causing many members to flee the group.

Kyaguliro gorilla family: The Kyaguliro gorilla family is a comparatively big family of 20 members, this family has been reserved for research purposes, so it is only visited on occasion.  Following the death of the group’s previous leader, who had been struck by lightning, the group divided up into Kyaguliro A and Kyaguliro B.

Kyaguliro A; includes ten family members, one silverback, two blackbacks, three adult females, two juveniles, and two infants, all led by Rukara, a dominant silverback.

Kyaguliro B; comprises ten family members, one silverback, four adult females, one adult, and four infants, all led by Mukiza, a dominant silverback.

Oruzogo gorilla family: The Oruzogo gorilla family consists of 17 individuals, including one silverback. This group was launched for tourist activities in 2007, and a few of the notable members of the family include Bakwate “old silverback”, Kaganga (silverback), Kasumali (silverback), six adult females that are Nyangaro, Katoto, Ruchura, Mutesi, Nyakina, and Mukwano, one baby  Bwengye, 3 sub-adult males

RUSHAGA SECTOR

Rushaga, which is 1,900 meters above sea level and close to Bwindi’s southernmost point, was added to the list of Uganda’s gorilla trekking regions in 2009. The region is distinguished by steep valleys overgrown with enormous tree ferns, cliffs with stream-filled cracks, and massive rocks. It offers fantastic views across deep jungle-clad valleys as well as a sight of the spectacular Virunga Mountains. Compared to Rushaga and Buhoma, it is less well-known, yet it is home to 8 habituated gorilla families and 1 semi-habituated family for the special Gorilla Habituation program.

Nshongi gorilla family: The Nshongi gorilla family is made up of seven individuals and is led by the strong silverback Bweza. One silverback, one juvenile, one baby, three adult females, and one sub-adult are present.

Kahungye gorilla family: The 17-member Kahungye gorilla family is led by a dominant silverback named Rumaz and includes 3 adult females, 3 silverbacks, 2 newborns, 3 juveniles, and 3 sub-adults. The family’s name comes from Kahungye Hill, where these gorillas were first seen in this area.

Family of Mishaya gorillas: Twelve gorillas make up the Mishaya gorilla family, which is led by a dominant silverback named Mishaya. The Mishaya gorilla group was established in 2010 when Mishaya split from the Nshongi gorilla group.

Family of Bweza gorillas: 23 mountain gorillas make up the Bweza gorilla family, which is headed by a silverback named Kakono. There are 2 silverbacks, 4 blackbucks, 1 sub-adult, 3 adult females, and 2 newborns in this family.

Busingye gorilla group: Busingye gorilla group consists of 9 members that split off from the Kahungye gorilla family, with Busingye as the dominant silverback. This organization takes its name from the local phrase for peace.

Bikingi Gorilla Family: The Bikingi Gorilla Family consists of 15 members: one silverback, five adult females, two subadults, two juveniles, and five infants. Habituation of the Bikingi gorilla group started in early 2012 as a follow-up exertion of the dissolving members of the fragmented Mishaya family. Indeed, several members of the former Mishaya family were discovered in the group with other non-habituated members and later deemed for habituation in order to maintain a close watch on formerly habituated members.

Kutu Gorilla Family, a new gorilla family in the Rushaga region of Bwindi Park, has 8 members and 1 silverback. Those who are interested in witnessing gorilla habituation may visit this group, which is still being habituated.

Mucunguzi gorilla group: Located in the Rushaga region of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the Mucunguzi gorilla group is a freshly habituated gorilla family. The name Mucunguzi, which translates to “savior,” was given to the third-youngest silverback in the Bweza gorilla troop at the time. The Bweza family is divided into the Mucunguzi group. Eight mountain gorillas make up the Mucunguzi gorilla group.

Rwigi Gorilla Family

Rwigi is a newly habituated gorilla family in Bwindi Park’s Rushaga area. The Rwigi Gorilla family is distinct from the Kahungye Gorilla family, which may also be found in the Rushaga section of Bwindi Forest Park. Visitors to Bwindi Forest are able to track the new Gorilla family for a unique and unforgettable Mountain Gorilla tracking experience. Rwigi, originally one of Kahungye Gorilla Family’s three dominant silverbacks, is now the leader of the Rwigi Gorilla Family. Rwigi, the now-dominant silverback, decided to form his own family after conflicts with other silverbacks in the Kahungye family. Rwigi Silverback battled hard and took a few adult females and juveniles with him to form a new family, currently known as the Rwigi Gorilla Family.

NKURINGO SECTOR

Established in 2004, the Nkuringo gorilla trekking sector is situated near Kisoro, on the park’s northern edge, at a height of 2,100 m. Despite the fact that farming settlements are heavily populated in the surrounding hills, they have an isolated and underdeveloped feel as a result of being situated on a dead-end road that leads to the adjacent Congolese border. Set along the Nteko Ridge, it is a particularly picturesque spot with panoramic views of the Kashasha River Valley and the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. It has three gorilla family groups as shown below;

Bushaho gorilla family: There are 8 members of the Bushaho gorilla family: 1 silverback, 1 black-back, 3 adult females, 1 sub-adult, and one juvenile, and 1 baby. Many members of the Nkuringo gorilla family split off to create the Bushaho gorilla family, which is led by a powerful silverback named Bahati.

Nkuringo gorilla family: The Nkuringo gorilla family was the first gorilla group in the southwestern part of Bwindi to be habituated, and this was completed in 1997. 12 gorillas including 1 silverback, 2 adult females, 2 adult females, 2 sub-adults, 3 adolescents, and 2 babies, make up the Nkuringo gorilla family. The Nkuringo gorilla family is notable for being the initial group in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park to record the birth of twins. Originally, the Nkuringo gorilla family consisted of 17 family members, but many of them departed the area and only 12 remained.

Bikingi gorilla family: A superb gorilla family specifically for gorilla habituation, the Bikingi gorilla family was habituated as early as 2012. At the moment, there are 15 members of this family: 1 silverback, 5 adult females, 2 sub-adults, 2 juveniles, and 5 newborns. The Bikigi gorilla family is still in the habituation phase, hence it does not yet have a leader.

Christmas gorilla family

The Christmas gorilla family lives in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park’s Nkuringo sector. It is available for tracking for any visitors who come to this sector. It was named after a dominating silverback, Christmas. There are now 9 members in the group, with only 1 silverback. However, for some reason, trekkers can only see six members of this family when they visit.

Volcanoes National park in Rwanda

Volcanoes National Park contains 11 gorilla groups. In total, the park is home to approximately 380 mountain gorillas. The volcanoes national park is part of the larger Virunga mountain ranges, which stretch all the way to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Virunga Mountains are home to approximately 500 mountain gorillas. The remaining half reside in Uganda’s Bwindi impenetrable forest and Mgahinga gorilla parks. Volcanoes has 11 habituated gorilla families for tracking stated below

Susa (A) gorilla family; the biggest gorilla family in the park, with 41 gorillas, is the one that Dian Fossey researched. Byishimo and Impano, two extremely uncommon twins, are known to belong to this group. This group of ranges is located in the high peaks, making it challenging to trek there, but when you do, you’ll be rewarded with its size.

Karisimbi (Susa B); There are two silverbacks who detached from the original Susa (A) group. This group, which lives on the upper slopes of Mt Karisimbi, is among the most difficult to reach. It is suitable for experienced hikers who enjoy the trekking encounter as much as seeing gorillas.

Amahoro Family; The term Amahoro originates from the Kinyarwanda synonym for tranquility. The group is known for its calm and good nature, Amahoro, which means “peace,” has stood true to its name and is recognized as the most tranquil community. It is difficult to monitor because one must trek up the hills of Mount Bisoke, which the group made their home. There are 18 individuals in the group, comprising 2 silverbacks.

Umubano Gorilla family; this family is headed by silverback Charles, who started Umubano with a group of female gorillas after they separated away from the Amahoro gorilla group. The cluster has 13 members, along with two silverbacks, and its family called “living together.”

Sabyinyo gorilla family; Guhonda is the leader of this group, named after one of the volcanoes, Mt. Sabyinyo, despite having a smaller population overall, this family is outstanding. If this group is available, request it because it is the closest to the park headquarters if you don’t want to travel far.

Titus gorilla family; This initial family was named the Titus family after the Silverback Titus, who was born amid Dian Fossey’s studies at Karisoke, the gorilla group she was monitoring. Titus the gorilla, who was fostered by an unrelated male gorilla, was abandoned by his mother and sister after losing his father, uncle, and sibling to poachers. The newborn appeared “uninspired and wiry,” according to Dian Fossey Titus, and also had trouble breathing, however, Titus overcome these challenges.

Hirwa family; certain individuals of the Sabyinyo group and other groups came together to form this family in 2006. (Agashya). There are currently 16 gorillas in the family, including a silverback, as even more joined. The title of the group was drawn from how fortunate it was to form. Hirwa is Arabic for “the lucky one,” and in 2011, the group welcomed twins. The Hirwa population lives in the foothills of Mt. Sabyinyo, located adjacent to Mt. Gahinga.

Bwenge gorilla family; was established by silverback Bwenge following a split with females from other tribes, Bwenge term means wisdom. The group primarily inhabits in the slopes in between the highlands of Karisimbi and Bisoke.

Kwitonda family; There are a remarkable 23 gorillas in the Kwitonda group, containing 4 Silverbacks, this family resides on Mountain Muhabura’s summits and is named after the late dominant silverback known as Kwitonda, a senior well-known for his modest nature. This population moved to Volcanoes National Park from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Uganda family; There are 11 individuals in it, which include 2 Silverbacks. Uganda’s word correlates to this group’s mobility, which signifies mobility. The Uganda Gorilla group rarely stays put and is constantly moving. This clan reportedly lives on Mount Bisoke, and the hike is not particularly challenging.

Agashya family; One of the many gorilla groups in Rwanda, the Agashya family was once known as Group 13 but has since changed its name. As a result of the founding membership of 13 people, this group acquired its name. Originally, a dominating silverback named Nyakarima was in charge of this family; however, he was ultimately overthrown in favor of Agashya, who continues to be in charge today.

Virunga Mountains ranges national park

Virunga National Park is among three national parks in central Africa that protect endangered mountain gorillas that roam freely on the Virunga Mountains’ slopes. The park is located on the DR Congo side, sharing habitat with Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga National Park in Uganda. The Virungas are home to over half of the world’s endangered mountain gorilla population, which lives in tiny families. Virunga has nine habituated gorilla families, with two more in the process of being habituated as stated below.

Munyaga family

The Munyaga group is situated within Virunga National Park’s Bukima zone in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Silverback’s before 1998, Munyaga had been a lonely wild Silverback. Munyaga met a Buhanga group led by the adult female Nsekuye in February 1998 and took advantage of the absence of a dominating Silverback to make himself the group leader. Later, the team engaged with the Kabirizi group multiple times, until Munyaga lost all of his females to the Kabirizi group. Munyaga then vanished for two years (2007-2008). After his disappearance, Mawazo assumed leadership of the group, which he still holds today. Currently, the group consists of nine individuals; three silverbacks, two adult females, two juveniles, and two babies.

Bageni Gorilla Family

Bageni Gorilla Family is led by Silverback Bageni. Bageni grew up in his father’s troop, Kabirizi, and a few years later battled his father for authority, fleeing with 20 people to form his own. Females, including Kamoso, his mother Mapendo, a young adult Ntamuculira, and another silverback, Kanamahalagi, were among those he snatched from his father. The Bageni family currently consists of 46 members, including three silverbacks, thirteen adult females, one Blackback, seven sub-adult females, one sub-adult male, and ten infants. There are 2 other Silverbacks, who are fighting for the leadership (Silverback Kanamaharagi and Kitagenda).

Lulengo gorilla group

The Lulengo gorilla group consists of 11 individuals: one silverback, one black-back, two sub-adults, three adult females, two juveniles, and two infants.  The team travels between the Bikenga and Jomba sections of Virunga National Park, led by silverback Lulengo. Rugabo Silverback was the dominating male when the group emerged in 1985. Rugabo and the other two adult ladies were killed when the tribe was assaulted by porches nine years later. Rangers were able to rescue a child from the poachers, who were afterward captured and imprisoned. Rugabo’s son, Lulengo, gained command of the twelve remaining unit members in the aftermath. Conflicts with other gorilla families in Virunga National Park, particularly Mapuwa and Rugendo, have occurred under Lulango’s reign, resulting in the loss of family members.

Rugendo family

Rugendo was one of the initial groups that were habituated in 1985, alongside Rugabo and Zunguruka. The gang was founded by Silverback Rugendo, who was regrettably assassinated by rebels in the Bukima area in 2001. Rugendo is also the father of other Silverbacks in Virunga National Park, including Mapuwa, Humba, Ruzirabwoba, Mukunda, Nyakamwe, Mburanumwe, Baseka, Kongomani, Lubutu, and Bahati. Following his death, his son Senkwekwe assumed leadership of the group until 2007, when he was slain along with five other gorillas from his group by unknown persons.

The group was left lacking leadership for a few months until 2008 when the lone Silverback Bukima assumed command. Bukima was a member of the Buhanga group until joining the Munyaga group and becoming a lone Silverback in 2005. The Rugendo group is now led by Silverback Rugendo and consists of 9 people: 3 Silverbacks, 1 Black-back, 1 Adult female, 2 Sub-adult females, and 2 newborns.

Kabirizi Gorilla group

Kabirizi, a mighty but modest silverback, leads this group. It can be found in the Bukima area near Goma. The group was named after the ICCN Director who deceased in a traffic accident. This Congo gorilla group was formerly called the “Ndungutse” family named the dominant silverback, Ndungutse. Ndungustse took over from his father, Zunguruka, who succumbed to old age. However, Ndungutse was killed in a crossfire between the government and Rwandan rebel forces in 1997. These occurrences, as well as others such as conflict and rivalry, set the way for Kabirizi, a wild gorilla, to seize control of the group. However, an intriguing young but aggressive silverback named Masibo has come to prominence and challenges Kabirizi’s leadership.

Humba Gorilla family

This peaceful group of ten individuals is based in Bukima and was given the name after Humba, their leader silverback. Humba split up with his father Rugendo in 1998, along with six individuals, and was the brother of Senkwekwe, who was slain by gunmen in 2007. The Humba group had 16 members in 2014, however, a dispute between Humba and his brother Nyakamwe limited the group size. Nyakamwe left with ten people, leaving Humba with six. New births and the addition of individuals from other groups, such as Kakule, a female from the Munyaga group, have increased the group’s size. Tourists adore this tribe, which lives in the park’s Gatovu and Bikenge regions.

Mapuwa gorilla group

The Virunga national park’s Mapuwa gorilla group was once led by a dominating silverback Mapuwa, who was exceptionally strong and persistently fought to safeguard his family through countless violent battles. Mapuwa fled his father’s group in 1988, creating his own family with two adult females he departed with, Jicho and Mafaze. Mapuwa has gained numerous members to his gang by continuous fights, such as when he faced Pilipili, a famed silverback in Virunga, in 2002, taking all of his family members with him. There have been as well many births, bringing the total number of members to 22, led by a dominant silverback named Mvuyekure, and the family is located in Jomba, next to Bunagana.

Nyakamwe group

The Nyakamwe group is led by Silverback Nyakamwe and is located in the Bukima section of the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Nyakamwe group was formed in 2014 as a consequence of a schism in the Humba group. Nyakamwe Silverback faced internal disputes with his brother Humba and ended up departing the group with ten individuals on April 20, 2014, leaving Humba’s group with only 5 people. The Nyakamwe family presently consists of 11 members, including two Silverbacks, one Black-back, three adult females, one sub-adult female, two adolescents, and two newborns.

Baraka gorilla family

This is the most recent family to be named after Rachel Baraka. Rachel Masika Baraka served as one of the park’s wildlife force’s 26 female rangers. She was murdered while leading British tourists to Mikeno Lodge in Virunga National Park on a Congo gorilla expedition. As a result, the park chose to name this family in honor of that slain hero. The Silverback Baraka leads this group In Virunga National Park, Baraka is believed to be the father of several Silver