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Habituated Gorilla Families In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Uganda

Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has 19 habituated gorilla families which are available for gorilla trekking in the four different sectors of the park. Each gorilla group has something to offer which may be in terms of character, size, dominance or more.

Some groups are led by silverbacks that are very peaceful and if you indeed portray the same then it would be recommended to bond with a peaceful family.

All gorillas in the habituated gorilla families of Uganda are known by name and have been given names to identify them. Please note that the group dynamics and composition may change from time to time.

  1. Habituated Gorilla Families Buhoma Sector

Buhoma sector is situated in the northeastern part of Bwindi. The gorilla groups/families in Buhoma sector include;

a) Mubare Gorilla Family

Mubare Gorilla Group is the first group to be habituated in Bwindi National Park for gorilla trekking. It was gazetted in 1993 just after the reserve was gazetted a National Park.

Mubare family derives its name from the magnificent Mubare hill where the group was first sighted. After the habituation process, Mubare had 12 members with Silverback Ruhondeza −meaning the one who oversleeps as the head of the family.

The group had misfortunes like raids, and death among others and Ruhondeza didn’t have enough strength to fight for the family before his death, the family had remained with only 5 members.

Ruhondeza later died when he was 50 years old and the family was joined by other members in 2013. The group currently has 9 members including one silverback Kanyonyi (bird) who is currently the leader of the family.

b) Habinyanja Gorilla Family

Habinyanja Gorilla Group was habituated in 1997 and was opened for trekking in 1999. It was first sighted around the swamp in Bwindi, hence its name ‘Habinyanja’ which means ‘water body’ in the Rukiga language.

After the habituation process, the group was dominated by Mugurusi silverback, a local name which means ‘old man’ who later died.

After his death, the family was led by two brothers Mwirima Silverback and Rwansigazi Silverback.

They had differences in that Mwirima Silverback loved to stay in one place while Rwansigazi loved to travel to far places which led to their separation in 2002 and Mwirima formed his own family called Rushegura.

Habinyanja family is now led by Makara silverback, a local name which means ‘charcoal’ and comprised of other 17 members including;

  • 1 blackback
  • 3 juveniles
  • 4 infants, and
  • 8 adults.

 c) Rushegura Gorilla Group

The Rushegura gorilla family split from the Habinyanja gorilla family. It is the most easily accessed gorilla family in the Buhoma sector because it lives near the park headquarters in Buhoma.

The group name is derived from a tree species known locally as Ebishegura which was abundant in the group’s home range.

Rushegura gorilla family started with 12 members but due to the good leadership of the late Silverback Mwirima who died in 2019, the group now has 21 members including one Silverback.

The leadership has been taken by an ambitious blackback called Kabukojo. Rushegura is a welcoming and friendly family in Bwindi and members sometimes move outside Bwindi National Park boundaries where visitors have a chance to view them early in the morning after gorilla trekking in Uganda the previous day.

Katwe Gorilla Group

Katwe Gorilla Family underwent a habituation process for 3 years which made it familiar to human presence hence guaranteeing travelers of their security in the presence of these gentle giants.

The family is comprised of one silverback, 3 blackbacks, 4 adult females, and 2 infants.  Investigations are still undergoing the actual number of gorilla members make up this family but its trekking has already started.

  1. Habituated Gorilla Families In the Ruhija Sector

The Ruhija is found in the eastern part of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. The gorilla families in Ruhija include

a) Kyaguriro Gorilla Family

Kyaguriro gorilla Group was the first group to be habituated in the Ruhija sector in 1999 but was set aside or reserved for research.

After habituation, the family had 20 members with Rukina Silverback as the leader of the family who later died because he was struck by lightning in 2015. The family was left under the leadership of an immature silverback Mukiza in 2016.

Fights erupted in the group between Mukiza and Rukara an immigrant silverback from the Bitukura gorilla family and the group was split into two; Kyaguriro A is led by the Rukara silverback and comprised of 10 members and Kyaguriro B also called Mukiza family because it’s under the leadership of Mukiza silverback and is also comprised of 10 members including 2 black backs, 3 adults females, 2 juveniles, and infants.

b) Bitukura Gorilla Family

Bitukura gorilla group was habituated in 2007 and opened for trekking in 2008 which means that it was habituated for one and a half years, unlike other families.

After the habituation process, the group was composed of 24 members but due to fights with the family, some members split to form other gorilla families. Bitukura group derives its name from the river in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where it was first sighted.

It is comprised of 14 members including 4 silverbacks, 4 adults, 2 juveniles, 3 infants, and one baby. Bitukura is dominated by Ndahura and the family is known to be the most peaceful in Bwindi.

c) Oruzogo Gorilla Group

The Oruzogo gorilla family was opened for trekking in 2011. After habituation, the group had 25 members with 2 silverbacks.

Currently, the family is comprised of 17 members with one silverback Tibirikwata who is the leader of the family, 2 blackbacks, 5 adult females, 2 sub-adults, and 5 infants. This group has the highest number of gorillas in Ruhija.

Oruzogo became famous in 2013 when it had a set of twins by a Kankonda female and is also known to be the most playful family in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which entertains visitors on a safari hence giving them great memories.

  1. Habituated Gorilla Groups In Rushaga Sector

Rushaga sector lies in the southern parts of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Rushaga gorilla groups include;

a) Mishaya Gorilla Family

The Mishaya gorilla group is found in the Mishaya region of the forest park. The family is composed of 12 members with one silverback called Mishaya who is the leader of the family. The Mishaya group seceded away from the Nshongi group.

Initially, the group was composed of 7 members but it kept on expanding up to currently 12 members. Mishaya is a great fighter and through gorilla battles, he has been able to acquire more members from other families.

b) Nshongi Gorilla Group

The Nshongi gorilla family was first habituated in 2007 and officially opened for Uganda gorilla tracking safaris in 2009.

By 2009, the group was the largest with 36 members including 4 silverbacks and 7 blackbacks all living harmoniously.

In 2010, Mishaya broke away with some members to form his own family leaving Nshongi with 26 members.

The group was later split into another group called Bweza with 10 members in 2013 leaving Nshongi with only 18 members.

Nshongi group occupies a large forested area in Rushaga where one is likely to be graced by the sights of other primates.

It got its name from the River Nshongi that flows within its home range. Nshongi River was named following its dark colour that resembles honey which is called ‘omushongi two Bwoki’ in Rukiga. The Nshongi group has a unique characteristic whereby Nshongi, the dominant silverback reigns over other adult female gorillas that are older than him which is a rare case among the primates.

c) Bweza Gorilla Group

The Bweza Gorilla Family consists of 7 members with one silverback and is one of the splinter groups of the larger Nshongi group.

In 2010, Bweza was among the members who broke away under the leadership of Mishaya to form the Mishaya group.

However, in 2012, Bweza discovered that his ambitions would not be fulfilled under Mishaya’s rule hence decided to break away with a group of 6 other members to form their own independent group.

d) Kahungye Gorilla Group

Kahungye Gorilla Family consists of 27 members with 3 silverbacks at the time when it was opened for Uganda gorilla trekking safaris in 2011.

Barely a year later, the group split into two giving birth to the Busingye family that too lives in Rushaga. The group now consists of 13 members with 3 silverbacks under the leadership of Rumansi.

e) Bushingye Gorilla Family

Bushingye Gorilla group is a splitter group from Kahungye which broke away in 2012. This was a result of the ambitious silverback called Busingye which means ‘peace’.

Bushingye is not a symbol of his name as he is known for his fights with other gorillas. The group consists of 9 members with one silverback (Busingye), 3 infants, 2 adult females, and 3 juveniles.

f) Kutu Gorilla Group

The Kutu gorilla Family was formerly available for gorilla habituation experience but now is open for normal Uganda tracking tours.

Habituation is a process of making wild aggressive gorillas get used to human presence.

The process takes about 2 – 3 years. It has 8 members with one silverback. This latest addition adds to the number of habituated gorilla families in the Rushaga sector to 9.

g) Bikyingi Gorilla Family

The Bikingi gorilla group is available for the gorilla habituation experience in Bwindi. The habituation process of this group commenced in 2012 and the family’s leadership is not yet confirmed.

The Bikyingi family is composed of 21 individuals i.e. 1 silverback, 9 adult females 2 sub-adults, and 9 infants.

h) Rwigi gorilla family

Rwigi gorilla group is a newly habituated gorilla family in the Rushaga sector with 6 members led by Rwigi the silverback gorilla. The group broke away from the Kahungye group.

i) Mucunguzi Gorilla Family

Mucunguzi gorilla group has 8 members. The name of the group is derived from the head of the group – Mucunguzi who is the dominant silverback.

Mucunguzi attempted to fight the dominant gorilla in the Bweza group but was defeated and later chased out of the group where it started living a solitary life.  Eventually, it attacked another gorilla family where it left with some females and started this gorilla family.

  1. Habituated Gorilla Groups In the Nkuringo Sector

Nkuringo sector lies in the southern region of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in the northern part of Kisoro town. The sector is home to three habituated gorilla families namely;

a) Nkuringo Gorilla Group

Nkuringo Gorilla Family was the first to be habituated in 1997 and was opened for trekking in 2004. Nkuringo is a local name that means hills where the group was first sighted.

The family was led by the gentle Silverback Nkuringo who led the group till 2012 when he died at the age of 45 years.

Nkuringo left the group with 3 Silverbacks, Safari, Rafiki, and Christmas and the brothers kept together as Safari led the group.

Safari disappeared after the gorilla group encountered another family; the Bushaho Gorilla group and till this day, no one knows what happened to Safari – and that’s when Rafiki took over the family and gracefully led the group till he was killed by poachers June 1, 2020.

Rafiki is a Swahili word that means “friend” and indeed he was a friendly Gorilla and a valued family member.

The group is currently led by dominant blackback Rwamutwe (meaning one with a big ego) and blackback Tabu (meaning one who brings problems to family) as his second in command.

The family currently has 15 members including 4 black backs, 6 adult females, 2 juveniles, and 3 infants.

b) Christmas Gorilla Group

Christmas Gorilla Family is headed by Christmas as a dominant silverback, which some people believe, was born on Christmas.

Fortunately, travelers intending to trek Christmas family have a variety of accommodation services including Clouds Mountain Gorilla Lodge, and Nkuringo Bwindi Lodge, which serve travelers with excellent food and sleeping services.

The group is comprised of 9 members including one blackback, 3 adult females, and 1 infant.

c) Bushaho Gorilla Family

Bushaho Gorilla Group is headed by the dominant Silverback Bahati. Following a number of individual gorilla dispersals from the Nkuringo group, a search for their whereabouts was launched in early 2012.

It was discovered that one of the former silverbacks of Nkuringo group, “Bahati”, who was initially perceived to be living solitarily, had rather formed a parallel group, with some of the members from the former Nkuringo group that had individually dispersed among other non-habituated members.

Close monitoring of this parallel group was done, and the group was subsequently habituated and named ‘Bushaho’ after the topo-name of the locality where the group forages most.

The group is currently composed of 12 individuals including; 1 Silverback, 1 Blackback, 4 Adult females, 2 Sub-adult females, and 4 infants.