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Gorilla families Uganda

Gorilla families in Bwindi impenetrable national park are different groups in which gorillas live as a family, grow up as they produce and take care of each other. Bwindi national park is situated in the south western Uganda in kanungu district on the edge of the great Albertine rift valley covering an area of 3312km neighboring the Democratic Republic of Congo border next to the Virunga national park. The gorilla families in Uganda are only inhabited in Bwindi national park and Mgahinga national park. Bwindi has over half of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population and whose encounter is the most exciting in the entire continent. Gorilla trekking is the main activity in Bwindi and a total number of 20 gorilla families are habituated and can be accessed by visitors in four tracking sectors i.e. Buhoma, Ruhija, Nkuringo and Rushaga.

Mgahinga national park has one gorilla family that inhabits the area. However, all these gorilla families have been habituated for tracking. Gorilla habituation is a process that takes 2 years and involves training the gorillas to get used to human beings, as they continue their day to day activities in their natural environment even when human beings are present. According to the UWA conservation rules, only 8 visitors aged 15+years are allowed to visit each of the habituated gorilla groups per day. Gorillas move to new places every day and never stay in one place twice and anytime a silverback can choose to leave a group and form his only family.

A gorilla family is a group of mountain gorillas that come together and live as a family. Bwindi national park has got the highest number of mountain gorilla families compared to other national parks such as Mgahinga, Virunga and volcanoes national park.

Below are the recorded mountain gorilla families in every sector;

Mubare gorilla family.

Mubare gorilla family is the oldest habituated gorilla group in Uganda. It was found in the Mubare hills meaning stone in the local language, deep in Bwindi forest and was habituated in 1998. This is the oldest habituated gorilla group in Uganda that started with 12 family members, led by a dominant silverback called “Ruhondeza”. The group grew to 18 members in the recent years. Actually, due to the fights with other wild gorilla groups, it lost several members including the one Ruhondeza who used to care for everyone in the party. The group remained with only 5 members for several years until March 2013 when other members including a new dominant silverback joined and now it’s having 11 members, is such an interesting group to visit, led by Alpha the silver back called Kanyonyi. There are 6 adults, 1 teenager and 3 toddlers. Because of its convenient location with the Queen Elizabeth national park and with its limited tracking hike, the family permits are a priority for many tour operators as well as tourists. This gorilla family is found in Buhoma.

Habinyanja Gorilla family:

Habinyanja gorilla family is located in Buhoma with 17 members including 2 silverbacks. The gorilla family started in 1997 although it was first visited by tourists in 1999. The name Habinyanja comes from a local word “Nyanja” meaning “body of water”, it is one of the swamp in Bwindi forest where this family was found. The group had several strong males which caused power struggles that happened between the dominant silverbacks fighting for family leadership which led to separation and forming of another group called Rushegura family.

It’s also normal for such a large family to separate and form a new gorilla family and sometimes can be joined by members rejected by other families or other solitary gorillas and also when they do, gorillas retain the brotherhood and cannot fight against former family members in case they happen to meet. Visitors tracking this family need about 3 to 8 hours and it makes sense if they can stay at any lodge in Buhoma area of Bwindi. The family is led by the shrewd alpha female called Makara.

Rushegura Gorilla family:

Rushegura gorilla family is located in Buhoma sector with 19 members including one silverback. Rushegura gorilla family was formed in 2002, after one of the silverback from the Habinyanja gorilla family decided to break away and started his only family with 12 members including 5 females. By 2010 the group increased from 12 to 19 members. The Rushegura name is derived from “Ebishegura”, a tree specie common within the home area of the new family. This group is the calmest group in Bwindi forest. Sometimes this group could always cross the border and move to Congo but always would return, it is also known for wandering in nearby villages and lodges.

Katwe gorilla family:

Katwe gorilla family is located in Buhoma sector and is the newest family in Buhoma region. It has got one dominant silverback, 2blackbacks, 4 Adult females and 2 infants. The group was officially opened for trekking in 2018.

Muyambi gorilla family:

Muyambi gorilla family is located in Buhoma sector and is the newest group in Buhoma region of Bwindi. It was officially opened early 2019 with 6 members of the family. Muyambi was an adult family member of Mubare gorilla family and it separated from the family to form its own group called Muyambi group now. The gorillas are amazing to watch eating, communicating, resting and moving on ground and in the trees. In May 2020, the family received a new addition.

Bitukura gorilla family:

Bitukura gorilla family is located in Ruhija sector with 14 members including 2 silverbacks. The group was named after a river were the family members were first sighted. The habituation started in 2007 and was relatively easy process as the gorillas were already encountered by the UWA rangers. However, the habituation process takes a period of 2 years, it took only 15 months with this family. The family has a close bond and share together with the kyaguriro family.

The family is known to be peaceful, prayerful, and often have group meetings or get-togethers with other members. Though it has 4 silverbacks, the group is led by the second youngest silverback called Ndahura who took over from the now retired Karamuzi. The group had 24 members but due to disputes within the family, some gorillas left the group and were recruited to other families.

Oruzogo Gorilla Family:

The Oruzogo gorilla group is located in Ruhija sector with 17 members including 2 silverbacks. The family was established in 2011 by the Uganda wildlife Authority and is the second habituated group in Ruhija sector. The group is led by Tebirikwata the oldest gorilla in the family. Since 2011 the family has enlarged with more family members due to the increase of child birth by the elder females. The group is known of its playful ways and energetic juveniles. This group consists of family members with different names derived from local names such as “Busungu” (meaning short tempered), Bwoba (coward), kakanga (the giant one).

Kyaguliro Gorilla Family:

Kyaguliro gorilla family is located in Ruhija sector with 10 members. The group was habituated in 1995 for research and study purposes. The group was led by the old silverback Zeus who was banished in the forest by Rukina and later died. After Rukina’s demise, the family was left under the leadership of Mukiza who later left to make his own family, he was replaced by a silver back called Rukara who now leads the family. The family is known for spending almost all its time in the inner forest and it rarely gets close to the forest’s peripherals. However, it has also helped a big number of research and conservation to learn about the differences in mountain gorillas with those in Virunga Volcanoes national park.

Mukiza Gorilla Family:

Mukiza gorilla family is located in Ruhija sector with 10 members. The family was formed after one of the silverback in Kyaguliro broke off to make his own family.

Nkuringo Gorilla Family:

Nkuringo gorilla family is located in Nkuringo area with 19 members including 2 silverbacks. The word Nkuringo is derived from the word round hills and these hills are located in the areas of Kisoro and Bwindi. Nkuringo sector was launched in 2004. This is the most challenging trailheads of gorilla trekking and one of the most satisfying and worth your trek in the life time experience. The group was first led by one silverback Nkuringo and later died in April 2004 after a successful habituation. Nkuringo left 2 silverbacks Rafiki and Safari who took over the power and during his reign the family welcomed a new born twin babies’ gorillas Katungi and Muhozi. Unfortunately, Katungi died at the age of one and half years due to illness.

Bushaho gorilla family:

Bushago gorilla family is located in the southern sector of the Nkuringo area with 8 members including 1 silverback known as bahati who later broke away from the nkuringo group.

Nshongi gorilla family:

Nshongi gorilla family is the largest group in Rushaga sector introduced in September 2009 with about 32 gorilla members. It was named after river Nshongi, where the gorilla family was first sighted. The word Nshongi was derived from a local word “Omushongi Gwobuki” meaning honey. The group was led by Nshongi. Later on in July 2010 the group split and remained 26 members with the other split forming the present Mishaya gorilla group. In 2013 the family was left with 18 members, with a new splitting forming the present Bweza gorilla group with 10 members.

Bikingi gorilla family:

Bikingi gorilla family is located in Rushaga with 21 members including one silver back. The group started after some members from Mishaya family came together with other wild gorillas to form their own family. Later on the group was put under habituation.

Mishaya gorilla family.

Mishaya gorilla family is located in Rushaga with 12 members and 1 silverback. Its name was derived after Mishaya the silver back who was known for fighting interaction with other gorilla families, he left the Nshongi gorilla group with 10 members and started his own family. Mishaya was known of his fights and later died in 2014.

Kahungye gorilla family.

Kahungye gorilla family is one of the newest gorilla group in the Rushaga sector with 17 members including 3 silverbacks. The “Kahungye” name is derived from a hill in Rushaga area where the gorillas were found. The group was officially opened for visitors and gorilla tracking in 2011 with 27 members including 3 silverbacks. In less than a year, the group split into two creating the Busingye gorilla family.

Bweza gorilla family.

Bweza gorilla family is located in Rushaga with 12 members including 2 silverbacks. Bweza gorilla group is the largest habituated group after Nshongi group which was the largest. However, in July 2010 Mishaya the silverback decided to leave the group and start his own group. In 2012 it was recorded that Bweza also broke off to form his own gorilla group, he walked away with about 6 other members from the Mishaya gorilla group.

Busingye gorilla family:

Busingye gorilla family is located in Rushaga sector with 9 members including 1 silverback. He was a member of Kahungye family and broke away in June 2012 with 7 members.  Busingye is a local word meaning peace. Busingye is known for always creating fights from other gorilla groups and also known for snatching away females from other groups.

Kutu gorilla family.

Kutu gorilla family is located in Rushaga sector with 8 members and 1 silverback. Kutu is a new gorilla family still under habituation and good for visitors who wish to do gorilla habituation experience.

Mucunguzi gorilla group.

Mucunguzi gorilla group is located in Rushaga sector with 8 members. The word Mucunguzi means savior. The group split from the Bweza gorilla family after a serious fight.

Rwigi gorilla family.

Rwigi gorilla family is the newly habituated gorilla family located in Rushaga sector with 6 members led by Rwigi the silverback gorilla. The group broke away from Kahungye gorilla family after the misunderstandings from other silverbacks in Kahungye and decided to make his own family.

Nyakagezi gorilla family.

Nyakagezi gorilla family is the only group in Mgahinga national park with 9 members including 1 silverback. This group usually crosses borders between Uganda, Rwanda and democratic Republic of Congo. However, since November 2012, the group has been stable and they are trying to settle on the Uganda side and likely to stay for a while. In May 2013 the group welcomed a new born baby gorilla thus increasing the group to 10 members. Due to its unpredictable behaviors, permits for this group can only be booked at the local Uganda wildlife Authority offices in Kisoro.

Below are the habituated gorilla groups in Uganda. Visit Uganda and have a chance to encounter with the only mountain gorillas left in the world.

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