Mountain Gorilla Familes in Uganda

Uganda has 11 gorilla groups or families habituated for trekking while one is for research. Gorilla families in Uganda include, Rushegura, Habinyanja, Mubare, Nkuringo, Bitukura, Oruzogo, Mishaya, Nshongi, Kahungye, and recently the new groups called Busingye and Bweza. Kyaguriro gorilla group located in Ruhija is for research. Mountain gorilla habituation take about 2-3 years and below are some of the gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Mubare Gorilla Family

Mubare Gorilla Family

Family size: 9 members including and one silverback

Location: Buhoma

Mubare is the oldest habituated gorilla group in Uganda. It was found in the Mubare hills, deep in Bwindi forest, and was fully habituated in 1993. The group started with 12 family members, led by the dominant silverback Ruhondeza. In a few years the group grew to 18 individuals. Unfortunately, due to fights with wild gorilla groups and loss of members

Mubare Gorilla family in Buhoma side of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was the first of the Uganda mountain gorillas to be habituated in 1998. It was first sighted by trackers around the Mubare hills that are to be found deep in Bwindi Impenetrable forest. It was led by the late Ruhondeza who died in 2013 after a serous fight with a black back in the family. He had to surrender and left the family under a black back who has raided and expanded the family from 5 members to 9 members as of now

The dominant silver back in the group by then was the late Ruhondeza and back then he ruled a family with over 18 gorillas. Over the years his family has shrunk in number. This was because as he aged, he never groomed a successor. Ruhondeza was a jealous kind of silverback. The UWA trackers long suspected that he would kill off any up coming blackbacks who would be tempted to usurp his position.

2009 was particularly hard year for this family with a loss of three of its members. Early in the year one of the adult females died of a fracture to the skull. She left behind a wee infant of six months, whom the group tried to care for. The baby was found dead on Ruhondeza’s bed by trackers one morning. As the little mite had not been weaned and couldn’t eat.

From 18 members, the group continued to loose member until they were only five members. In march 2012, Mubare under Ruhondeza was attached by a wild un habituated gorilla group defeating Ruhondeza and taking way some females from the group. Out of frustration, Ruhondeza had to quit leadership of the group and took refuge in the nearby community forest. Because the community loved him so much, they never chased him away and Uganda wildlife Authority kept on Monitoring him. Later on he had to pass away and was found dead in sleep. He was given a descent burial near UWA headquarters and if you visit Buhoma, kindly ask our guide to show you the grave of this great silverback.

The successor, immediately undertook an exercise of expanding the family and bringing back the glory. He attacked another family increasing the family members to nine members. Who know, may be he will continue to expand the family.

Habimanya Gorilla Family

Habinyanja Gorilla Family

Family size: 15 members including 2 silverbacks

Location: Buhoma

The Habinyanja group was first visited by tourists in 1999. The name comes from “Nyanja” which is the local word for ‘body of water’. It refers to the swamp in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where the group was first sighted. Habinyanja is a fascinating family with a lot of drama and commotion. This is caused by the power struggles between the dominant silverbacks and fights for the family leadership. The adult females are led by the shrewd alpha female called Kisho

Habinyanja group of gorillas is among the three habituated gorilla families that can be trekked from Buhoma. To reach the starting point, you sometimes need to drive for 45 minutes towards the neck or 30 minutes to reach the trail head at Nyamishaba village.

Habinyanja Gorilla Family was habituated in 1997 and the first group of tourists tracked this gorilla family in 1999. Habinyanja Group derives its name from a Rukiga word “Nyanja” which means “ a place with water”. The reason is that, it was first seen near swamp ponds in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Prominent members of Habinyanja family are, Makara, Rwansigazi, Maraya, Kisho, Nabukye, Binyonko, Rugyendi, Nyamuhango, Elsa, Hamusini, Hakato, Gacyaro and Bangenyi.

This gorilla group is characterized of power struggles, intrigues with in the group coupled with members who are willing to promote self interest at the risk of group interests. This has in turn resulted into dramatic actions overtime.

At the time of habituation, Mugurisi which is means “Old man” in Rikiga was the dominant silverback amidst his old age. The most interesting part of this was that at the time of habituation, Mugirisi was commanding a big group of 30 members which is quite big compared to other families whether habituated or not habituated. As time went by, Mugurisi had to pass away because of old age. This later caused succession disputes as the siblings were fighting for leadership of the family. This was because at the time of Mugurusi’s death, the family had four silverbacks waiting in the cue of who would succeed their father. These silver backs were Rwansigazi which means “The youthful boy”, Mwirima which means “darkness” and then Makara “Charcoal”.

Initially, Rwansigazi was supposed to succeed Mukurisi but because at the time of his death Mwirima had equally grown stronger and thus wanted to challenge for family leadership. For several years, Rwansigazi and Mwirima shared power after their fathers death but as time went on, something had to happen.

It should be noted that while the family remained as a unit under the leadership of these two brothers, tine came when incompatible differences among the two brothers were soon or later to cause separation of this once big family. Rwanzigazi was adventurous and liked travelling for long distance while Mwirima who like his dad Mugurisi preferred a small range.

History has it that because of the differences, these two silverbacks decided to separate and make two gorilla families depending on the interest of the members. In 2002, the family had to separate and those members that preferred adventure followed Rwansigazi while those who preferred a small range remained with Mwirima. No fights were report at the time of separation. The group that stayed with Rwansigazi maintained the name Habinyanja while the one that left came to be known as Rushegura.

Rushegura Bwindi Gorilla Family

Rushegura Gorilla Family

Family size: 18 members including and no silverback

Location: Buhoma

The Rushegura gorilla family was brought together in 2002, after one of the silverbacks from the Habinyanja group decided to break away. They started with 12 individuals including 5 females. This “Habinyanya 2 group” quickly received a new name, that derives from “Ebishegura” – a tree specie that was abundant in the home area of the new family. The Rushegura group is a calm family. In the past they used to cross the border to neighboring DRC every now and than but always returned to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. They are usually not far from Buhoma Village and sometimes even wander through the gardens of the lodges

Rushegura group is located in Buhoma part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Normally tourists start from the park headquarters to track this gorilla family but sometimes you might need to drive for up to 15 minutes for its trail head in Mukono

Rushegura is the name of a place where the separation of this group from the larger family of Habinyanja took place in February 2002. The break – away was led by the late Mwirima, a strong-massive silverback , desirous to form his own family, carrying away with him seven members. He later died and now the Rushegura is under the leadership of a strong black back

The late Mwirima, a son of Mukurusi, parted ways with his brother ,Rwansigazi who was famous for taking the gorillas on distant ranging expeditions, while Mwirima preferred shorter ranges.
The group was opened for Tourism in 2002 since the individuals had been habituated under the original Habinyanja family.

True to Late Mwirima’s determination to found a large –stable family,he worked so hard that by April 2010,the individuals had increased to 19 from the original 8.He was on record to have sired a number of off springs so far.

The group which is known to at times cross in neigbhouring Democratic Republic of Congo ,currently has no silverback ,five Adult females ,one Blackback ,and a host of juveniles and infants. The individuals under Mwirima feel secure given his proven heroics in fighting off rival and wild groups. Mwirima is known to engage in severe fights in protection of his sovereignty and the family, using his sharp canines, slapping and tearing vegetation , chest beating and thumping the ground with palms to display the end of the battle.

Rangers cite a recent example when Rushegura group encountered a wild Makare group against whom Late Mwirima fought tooth and nail ,triumphed and ensured the group stayed feeding in the battle field for two days to celebrate his rare feat.

Late Mwirima used to determine the movements of the group leading to appropriate feeding sites as well as mediating conflicts within the family. With the five adults bonded to Late Mwirima for most of the time. With the death of Mwirima in 2014 an influential black back has taken over control of the family.

Bitukura Gorilla Family

Bitukura Gorilla Family

Family size: 12 members including 4 silverbacks

Location: Ruhija

The Bitukura group was named after a river where the family members were first sighted. The habituation that started in July 2007 was a relatively easy process as the gorillas were already frequently encountered by the UWA rangers. Although the habituation process normally takes a minimum of two years, this group could already be visited by tourists within 15 months after the start. Bitukura is a peaceful family including 4 silverbacks and some playful juveniles. They share a close bond and often have ‘group meetings’ or get-togethers

Bitukura family is located in Ruhija side of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. There is accommodation in Ruhija but most tour operators prefer taking their clients to Buhoma for accommodation as Buhoma has several options when it comes to Lodging compared to Ruhija where this Family is located. If you stay at Buhoma, you will need to wakeup early as there is need to drive at least two hours to reach the starting point.

This mountain gorilla family was named Bitukura after a river that bears the same name. As it happens the family was first sighted in near the river which also turned out to be part of its homing range. Habituation of this group begun in July 2007 and the group was opened for tourism in October 2008. This was a relatively easy group to habituate as it had often been encountered by UWA rangers and trackers in their encounters with the Kyaguriro group and this non-threatening human contact made it easier for the group to become accustomed to human company much faster than with other gorilla groups which often take a minimum of two years to fully habituate.

The Bitukura family is peaceable, with little in way of the politics and monkeyshines prone to gorilla families. Ndahura sees to that. The Bitukura and Kyaguriro families share a close bond and are known to have, what can be described in human terms as get-togethers about once each month. The biggest mystery surrounding this peaceable family is the migration of its eldest juvenile daughter to the Kyaguriro family. Whereas it is known that on reaching adulthood, female gorillas are prone to leave the family in favour of starting a family with an eligible solitary male, or simply joining another family – like Twigukye did – she was nonetheless rather young to make the move. But she did it and a study of the family members may help give a clue to this unusual occurrence. Friend them and find out.

Nkuringo Gorilla Family

Nkuringo Gorilla Family

Family size: 19 members including 2 silverbacks

Location: Nkuringo

The Nkuringo group was named after the Rukiga word for “round hill” and was launched in 2004. One of the most important reasons for their habituation were the problems they created for the local communities by destroying crops and other products. By opening up the gorilla family for visitors, the community could directly benefit from tourism and it formed a protection for the gorillas as well. The family was led by the silverback Nkuringo who died in 2008, leaving behind 2 silverbacks in the group. In November 2008, the Nkuringo family expanded thanks to the special birth of a twin – Katungi and Muhozi – though Katungi unfortunately died at the age of 1.5 years. Please note that gorilla families in Uganda keep changing as more members are born, other die and other gorilla families in Uganda seperate to produce more famalies.

Nkuringo gorilla group is located in Nkuringo and it is the only gorilla family in this part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. You can book your accommodation at Clouds Lodge (Upmarket) or Nkuringo Gorilla Camp (Basic Accommodation). The drive time from Kampala to this part of the park is approximately 9-10 hours depending on stop overs you will make, weather conditions and the like.

This group was opened for tourism in 2004. Nkuringo is the Rukiga word for round hill. The group was first spotted and targeted for habituation at a hill named Nkuringo. This hill is not peaked and can be distinguished by its rounded crest.

In the first few months of contact with the group, the habituating trackers noted that it was under the leadership of an elderly silverback, who they naturally named Nkuringo. However, even then, Nkuringo’s son, Safari, had began calling the shots and, as heir-apparent, he had apparently taken over most of the leadership responsibilities. The aged Nkuringo died on 27th April, 2008, leaving behind two0 silverbacks in the group, Safari and Rafiki. This meant that the threat of a leadership showdown was expected. How did the situation resolve itself? Was there a battle of biblical proportions to determine dominance? Find out by ‘friending’ the silverbacks of the Nkuringo family to see how the situation was resolved.

Nshongi Gorilla Family

Nshongi Gorilla Family

Family size: 36 members including 5 silverbacks

Location: Rushaga

Nshongi is the largest group ever habituated and was officially launched in September 2009. It was named after the river Nshongi, close to the place where the gorilla family was first seen. Although most gorilla families in Uganda usually consist of 25 members with one or two silverbacks, this family is a rare excemption. Another remarkable fact is that the group is led by Nshongi, who is not even the oldest silverback in the family.

Busingye gorilla group is the newest family to break away from Kahungye which was opened for trekking in 2011. It was suspected that at one time Kahungye would split as it had three silver backs and a bigger group.

This group can be trekked but getting permits for this family is done on ground. Uganda Wildlife Authority is yet to announce how many members are in this group, when they will start selling gorilla permits for this group in Kampala.

None the less, this group is located in Ruhage region found in the southern sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. You can stay at Gorilla Safari Lodge or Kisoro Traveller’s Rest Inn.

We will keep you updated about this gorilla Group.

Busingye Gorilla Group

Busingye Gorilla Group

Family size: 7 members including 1 silverbacks

Location: Rushaga

Busingye gorilla group is the newest family to break away from Kahungye which was opened for trekking in 2011. It was suspected that at one time Kahungye would split as it had three silver backs and a bigger group.

Busingye gorilla group is the newest family to break away from Kahungye which was opened for trekking in 2011. It was suspected that at one time Kahungye would split as it had three silver backs and a bigger group.

This group can be trekked but getting permits for this family is done on ground. Uganda Wildlife Authority is yet to announce how many members are in this group, when they will start selling gorilla permits for this group in Kampala.

None the less, this group is located in Ruhage region found in the southern sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. You can stay at Gorilla Safari Lodge or Kisoro Traveller’s Rest Inn.

We will keep you updated about this gorilla Group.

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