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Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Uganda (Bwindi Gorillas)
The endangered Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Virunga ranges are the largest of the great apes.
They are a subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla that reside in mountainous forests as their name depicts. These massive animals are indisputably the most coveted primates in Africa!
Mountain Gorillas, scientifically named Gorilla Beringei Beringei, are the star of the show in Bwindi national park. They account for 99% of the visitors to the park.
These vigorous giants have thick, sturdy chests, a prominent abdomen, dark skin, and hair. The face has enormous nostrils, tiny ears, and prying brow ridges. Adults have protracted muscular arms that are 15-20% more extended than their stout legs.
Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi and the Virunga volcanoes are one of man’s closest relatives sharing about 98.7% of our DNA.
Generally, fears of the extinction of these epic apes have been alleviated with concerted conservation efforts. Notably, there was something of a “baby boom” in 2020 when Bwindi welcomed 5 Gorilla babies.
Diane Fossey, the slain American conservationist pioneered gorilla conservation in Rwanda. She popularized Mountain Gorillas in the western world. Her legacy still lives on in the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund based in Rwanda.
The Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration carried out the latest survey in Bwindi national park in 2018. The results indicated almost 459 Mountain Gorillas live here. This is approximately half of the entire world’s Mountain Gorilla population. The remainder (604) resides in the iconic Virunga Mountains.
This Bwindi population is divided into 50 Gorilla families and 13 lone individuals. 20 of them are habituated, making for mind-blowing Uganda Gorilla trekking experiences.
These knucklewalkers cannot thrive in captivity. You can only enjoy them in the jungle. And Bwindi is the ideal place for Gorilla safaris in Uganda. You can also catch these giants in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Keep in mind, September 24th is World Gorilla Day, designated to celebrate the majestic apes and spread the gospel of their conservation.
For you our esteemed reader planning a Uganda Gorilla tour in Bwindi, below we examine these enchanting apes.
World Gorilla Day-Who Started World Gorilla Day?
World Gorilla Day is a day set aside to celebrate Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the Virunga volcanoes and Gorillas all over the world.
In essence, it was designated to call for community action toward the conservation of the majestic apes.
World Gorilla Day was started on September 24, 2017.
This day was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Karisoke Research Center run by the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund.
It is to celebrate the work of Diane Fossey the famous “Gorilla lady” that began Gorilla research and conservation in 1967 in the Virunga Jungles.
PLEASE NOTE! To be part of this amazing day, you can book with us a Gorilla tour in Uganda today!
Mountain Gorillas Facts- Facts About Mountain Gorillas In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi are a pure joy to watch! The minutes spent in their presence are special. Let’s start on interesting facts about them.
- First off, approximately 1063 Mountain Gorillas exist in the world according to the 2018 census results announced by the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration.
- These incredible creatures thrive in high-altitude montane and bamboo forests, at elevations between 8,000 and 13,000 feet. These forests normally adjoin agriculture and settlements.
- Mountain Gorillas have longer hair than their eastern lowland cousins, the Grauer’s Gorillas (Gorilla beringei graueri) which facilitate insulation.
- Specifically, they live in 2 isolated groups in East Central Africa.
- One is in the Virunga Mountains spreading across Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- The other half is in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which links to Sarambwe Nature Reserve in the DRC.
- Research indicates that they’re close relatives of humans sharing 98% of DNA. They are genetically similar to humans. However, exposure to human illness can have a dangerous impact since they don’t have the necessary immunities.
- Mountain Gorillas have ferocious appetites. They can eat all day. Yes, you read that right! A Silverback can destroy around 34kgs of food daily, while an adult female can eat 18kgs.
- Gorillas in Uganda sleep in nests made from foliage in trees or on the ground. Infants share their mothers’ nest for warmth.
- Mountain Gorillas live family groups of around 10-30 individuals with one dominant male and several females.
- Adults share the responsibility of caring for infants. They both play with and carry them.
- Most males and around 60% of the females leave their birth group and join another troop which eliminates inbreeding.
- The IUCN (International Union For Conservation of Nature) listed Mountain Gorillas of Uganda as endangered in 2018. This is majorly due to human encroachment and poorly managed Gorilla tourism.
Here Are Other Fun Facts About Mountain Gorillas
For those interested in more interesting facts about Gorillas, we got you covered below!
- The arms of Mountain Gorillas are longer than their legs. This enables them to walk on all four limbs while remaining somewhat upright.
- Similarly, individual Mountain Gorillas have peculiar nose prints. Similar to how humans have unique thumbprints.
- The gentle apes have a massive 16 types of call. Just like in human society, communication is the glue that holds the gorilla groups together.
The calls include short barks when they are mildly alarmed or curious.
- Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi are very intelligent and can use simple tools and learn sign language.
- As I noted earlier that Gorillas are closely related to us, they cuddle up at night just like humans do.
- Gorilla beds are called nests. Young Gorillas normally make their nests in trees, and the adults make their nests on the ground.
- Mountain Gorillas in Uganda often don’t need to drink water from lakes or streams. They get all of the moisture they need from their food and morning dew.
Mountain Gorilla Size, Weight, and Life span
Mountain Gorilla Size
According to World Wildlife Federation, Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi and the Virunga Ranges are the largest primates.
They also tend to be slightly larger than other gorilla species and have shorter arms.
Researchers say that Mountain Gorillas are as strong as 4 adult humans. To put their size in perspective for you.
Their luxuriant coat exaggerates their size.
Mountain Gorilla Weight
- An average Silverback can weigh up to 180kg or 300 to 485 pounds and measure up to 170cm (over 5’5”) on all fours.
- In comparison, a female Mountain Gorilla can weigh 90kg, and measure up to 150cm (4’9”).
- The heaviest Gorilla on record of any race is Guhondo weighing 220KG in Rwanda’s Sabyinyo group
Mountain Gorilla Life Span- Life Span of Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
The average life span of a Mountain Gorilla in the wild is 35 years. However, Gorillas can live up to 50 years in the wild. They are classified as infants until they are 3 and a half years.
Adulthood begins at 8 years. Males between 8 and 12 years are called black backs From the age of 12, they grow silver hair on a section of their backs and hips. This is where they the name Silverback Gorillas from.
Silverbacks run the show in the family. They are charged with the responsibility of protecting the family.
Mountain Gorilla Habitat | Where Are Mountain Gorillas Found?
As their name suggests, these incredible creatures thrive in high-altitude montane and tropical forests, at elevations between 8,000 and 13,000 feet.
These forests are usually adjoining agriculture and settlements.
Particularly, Mountain Gorillas live in 2 isolated groups in East Central Africa.
- One is a resident of the famous Virunga volcanic Mountains spreading across Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- This population lives in 3 national parks, that is Mgahinga National Park in southwest Uganda, Volcanoes National Park in northwest Rwanda, and Virunga National Park in eastern Congo.
- On the other hand, the other half has a home in the UNESCO World Heritage, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It links to Sarambwe Nature Reserve in the DRC.
A Gorilla safari in Uganda will give you a once in a lifetime experience of encountering these gentle giants in their home.
Current Population of Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi- How Many Mountain Gorillas Are In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park?
You could be wondering, how many Gorillas are in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park? There are over 459 Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, according to the 2018 survey by the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration.
This is a union of the Uganda, Congo, and Rwanda governments. It was supported by conservation organizations such as the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund.
Bwindi has had an unprecedented yet warmly welcomed Gorilla baby boom in the last few years!
Perhaps, the most remarkable year in this regard was 2020 when Bwindi welcomed 5 Gorilla babies.
From the time of their discovery in 1902, the Gorilla population has been battered by years of war, hunting, habitat destruction, and disease.
These threats were so alarming that it was once feared the species might be extinct by the end of the twentieth century.
In the face of an encroaching human population, both populations of Mountain Gorillas in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National park and Virunga volcanoes continue to defy all odds.
Mountain Gorillas play a crucial role in the maintenance of the biodiversity of their habitats. This is key in counteracting climate change. Thus, a win for gorillas is a win for humanity.
This is such beautiful music to the ears of the global fraternity of conservationists and gorilla enthusiasts that have given to this noble cause.
You can also be part of this effort by coming to see these phenomenal Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi!
Mountain Gorillas Social Behavior- The Social Behavior Of Mountain Gorillas In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
- Bwindi Gorillas are territorial animals that live in communities of up to 30 individuals. Their social life overwhelmingly revolves around the domineering silverback.
- This older adult male is called a Silverback because of the swath of silver hair that embellishes his otherwise dark fur. He is the Gorilla equivalent of a dad in a home. He wears the pants in the troop. Quite interesting, isn’t it?
- Troops further include several other young males called blackbacks, some females, and their offspring.
- The silverback plans troop activities like eating, nesting in leaves, and moving about in a home range of 0.75-to 16 square miles.
- He gets the bigger share of food, handles the decision-making, and ensures harmony in the troop. The silverback bullies Contenders with impressive shows of physical dominance. Simply put, he calls the shots.
- He can stand upright, throw things, make aggressive charges, and pound his huge chest while barking out powerful hoots or unleashing a terrifying roar.
- Regardless of these displays and the animals’ obvious physical power, gorillas are largely gentle giants provoked.
- A male must have an established home range and significant strength to confront any rival before acquiring his troop. As result, most silverbacks are usually solitary for about 4 years and turn 15 before leading a troop.
- Adult females share no close bond and usually they battle it out for the loyalty of the silverback.
- Mothers share a close bond with their offspring for the first three years of life.
- Competition for adult females is high. It often fuels aggressive interactions between the alpha and rival silverback who seeks to either start or expand a troop. These confrontations may intermittently last for days. They involve the entire troop.
- Bwindi Gorillas give each other nose-to-nose greetings and gestures of reassurance such as hugging or touching.
Silver Back Mountain Gorillas In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
A Silverback is an adult dominant Gorilla male having gray or whitish hair on the back. The male’s back turns silver when he reaches sexual maturity at about 13 years.
He leads a group of about 5 – 30 members and is the focal point of the Bwindi Gorilla society. You will be blown away when you encounter him!
When a silverback dies, his troop usually disintegrates. The Silverback is quite simply the glue that holds Gorilla groups together.
A silverback begins to acquire his harem at about 11- 15 years by attracting a young sexually mature female from another troop. He can continue to lead a troop well into his 40s.
During your incredible Gorilla trekking in Uganda, you will get a “front seat” to watching the Silverback running the show.
Roles Of A Silver Back Gorilla
The Silverback is the Hitler of the Gorilla family! He wields unquestionable authority. He makes this quite clear to all the family members. This chest-thumping Gorilla meets any dissent with intense aggression. That’s crazy, right?
For example, if a silverback takes over another group, he mercilessly murders the infants to bully the other members into submission. And to have the female have only his kids.
Bottom line is, the Silverback is the boss! He plays a key part in the family.
- A silverback bears the responsibility of ensuring the security of the group. In case of any perceived or real threat, the silverback Mountain Gorilla steps up to the plate. He fiercely guards the troop.
- For instance, when threatened by poachers, hunters, or other animals, the silver back springs into action.
- He attacks directly using his razor-sharp long canines.
- As can be expected, the Silverback is the decision maker in chief. He determines when and what to eat, when and where to rest, where to go, and when to go there.
Here’s the juicy part! The female Gorillas fight for the silver back. They compete about who grooms him. He is the prize. There is no love lost between adult female Gorillas. They battle for the loyalty of the Silverback as he rewards it with security.
Gorillas in Uganda are indeed such intriguing animals!
The dynamics between the alpha male and his troop are something else. And you can witness it yourself if you meet Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
The Relationship Of Silver Back Gorillas With Baby Gorillas
Contrary to the popular image of the Silver Back as the chest-thumping aggressor, it actually has a soft spot for its Silver Back baby Gorillas!
This fondness of Silverback Mountain Gorillas for their infants is truly striking.
Male-infant relationships are a prominent and key feature of Mountain Gorilla social groups, even when infants live in groups with multiple potential fathers.
This closeness is fairly common in Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi and Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.
Quite interestingly, the interactions between Silverbacks and baby Gorillas do not appear to be dependent on kin discrimination. These males simply affiliate with infants irrespective of their relatedness.
These dominant males and even subordinates cuddle infants, play with them, welcome them into their nests, and just plain hang out with them.
Silverbacks do play a very significant part in infant development, serving as important role models. You can simply call it babysitting.
Silverback Mountain Gorillas are incredibly tolerant, gentle, and even loving with infants, despite the common portrait of male gorillas as aggressive, chest-thumping animals.
Even the other males in the group that aren’t interested will let infants climb on their backs, or sit under them while eating.
It’s hilarious to see these “tough” Gorillas will let infants do things to them that they can’t let even subadults get away with.
It’s definitely not the stereotypical image we have of male Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi!
The Importance Of The Relationship Of The Silverback Gorillas With Baby Gorillas
Research shows that Silverbacks play an incredibly vital role in caring for youngsters who became separated from their mothers at early ages. They act as surrogate mothers. Infants tend to move close to the silverbacks and also sleep in their night nest, which is extremely key for maintaining warmth.
At the heart of this is the fact that Silverbacks love their infants and are good dads!
However, it’s a bit harder to see this since Silverbacks’ role is often fully evident in a larger sense within the group’s dynamics, as they are generally in charge of the protection of all its members.
The relationships between Silverback Gorillas and baby Gorillas appear to have fitness-relevant benefits for infants. These include improved access to resources, and protection from infanticide, predation, and conspecific harassment.
On the other hand, caring for infants is associated with increased reproductive success for the Silverback Gorillas
However, they are not so gentle with infants of rivals when they take over a particular group! They tend to mercilessly murder them.
The Diet Of Mountain Gorillas- What Do Mountain Gorillas Eat?
I know you must be wondering exactly what Mountain Gorillas eat. Right?
Well, Mountain Gorillas are generally herbivores.
- Troops find plentiful food for their vegetarian diet in the abundant forests.
- Bwindi Gorillas majorly eat bamboo shoots, roots, fruit, wild celery, tree bark, and pulp.
- About 2% of their diet comprises insects and other invertebrates, with ants being their most favored source of protein.
Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park have outstanding appetites. An adult female can comfortably destroy 18kg of food each day while a male can devour almost 30kgs of food a day! Think about that for a second. At least, we know why they are so gigantic.
Why Mountain Gorillas Barely Drink Water
Can you imagine life without water? Well, Mountain Gorillas in Uganda can survive without it.
- They barely drink water because they quench their thirst from the plants they eat.
- Also, they live in high-altitude areas where the temperature is low. Therefore, they don’t lose a lot of water due to the temperature hence less need for water.
Reproduction of Mountain Gorillas
Mountain Gorillas are a polygamous specie.
- Almost similar to humans, Female Gorillas give birth to one infant after a pregnancy of nearly nine months. Gorillas are fertile for one or two days a month. Now you know why we have a limited population size.
- By the time she reaches old age, she has typically raised almost six offspring to sexual maturity
- Contrary to their powerful parents, newborns are tiny weighing four pounds. They are only able to cling to their mother’s fur. Infants mount their mothers’ backs from the age of four months through the first two or three years of their lives.
Young Gorillas of Uganda, from three to six years old, display childlike behaviors. I can guarantee you will love beholding these little ones just being kids.
These infants spend the majority of the day in play, climbing trees, chasing one another, and swinging from branches.
These Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi forest are absolutely adorable!
Mountain Gorilla Status, Threats and Predators
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which determines the conservation status of species, altered the status of Mountain Gorillas from “critically endangered” to “endangered” in 2018.
This was due to the positive population trend following the census results.
However, as we celebrate this win, it is important to maintain the Gorilla conservation momentum. Scientists sound the alarm that they could quickly slip back into being critically endangered.
And with all the amazing benefits of these massive apes, the stakes cannot be higher!
Mountain Gorilla Predators
- Generally, Leopards are the only animal Mountain Gorilla predators. The latter’s sheer strength and imposing size are enough to intimidate any prowling predators.
- However, Humans are the biggest threat to the survival of Gorillas in Uganda. And below we examine the devastating impact of humans on Gorilla survival.
The Human Toll on Mountain Gorilla Survival
The major threats to Gorilla populations today are habitat loss/fragmentation, poaching, disease transmission from humans, and civil wars/political unrest.
Sadly, all of these are human-driven!
- Habitat loss and fragmentation happen humans modify land is for agricultural purposes, logging, and land conversion for grazing domestic animals.
- Compelling evidence shows that the bush meat trade poses a huge risk to Mountain Gorilla survival. They frequently get caught in snares laid out to trap other animals for bush meat.
- The logging industry has facilitated the bush meat trade through direct bush meat consumption and by opening up the forests through the construction of roads. This consequently increases poaching opportunities.
- The bush meat trade situation will cause the extinction of viable African ape populations within the near future if not arrested.
- Unfortunately, the Gorillas’ forested home also provides retreats for armed opposition groups during times of war and political unrest. This is more evident in the DRC. It adversely affects Gorillas and other animal populations by decimating their territory.
- Disease & Parasitism are the other roadblocks. Majority of the diseases that infect humans can infect Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Virunga
- For instance, In November/December 2002 the Ebola virus claimed many Gorillas and Chimpanzees; including 8 Gorilla groups that had been studied by researchers since 1994.
- On a positive note, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park has put in place strict sanitation protocols. Touching the Gorillas is prohibited. This is because the disease could spread quickly since Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi are habituated to human presence because of the tourism industry
- Climate change also poses a formidable threat. While Gorillas are adaptive, moving to higher elevations to adapt to warmer temperatures, those areas are densely populated with little forest remaining.
Mountain Gorilla Families In Different Sectors Of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
A Gorilla family also known as a troop, is a group of Gorillas comprises a dominant adult male known as the silverback, several adult females, and their Mountain Gorilla babies. These troops usually comprise 4- 30 individuals.
Bwindi boasts an impressive 50 Mountain Gorilla families. 20 of these are habituated to human presence.
And, as you undertake your African safari in Uganda’s Bwindi, expect to encounter these Gorilla families in 4 Uganda Gorilla trekking sectors. Namely, Buhoma in the north East, Rushaga in the southwest, Ruhija in the East, and Nkuringo in the southwest.
You will get to capture amazing Mountain Gorilla pictures!
Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park are just like us humans. Fighting and “divorcing” each other is a common phenomenon. This applies to almost all groups of Gorillas in Uganda.
Therefore, you will realize that the numbers of individual families in the various sectors keep changing as a result of this Gorilla drama. Also, figures keep changing as Silverback Gorilla babies are born.
If you thought that drama is a specialty for humans, you thought wrong!
Let’s dig into the Gorilla families together for those who are interested in checking them out in Bwindi.
Buhoma Sector In Bwindi
Buhoma is the trailblazing sector in Bwindi impenetrable forest. It is sits on the Northern side of the park.
It is the most prominent sector for Uganda Gorilla safaris in Bwindi out of the 4. This is because of superior trails, ease of access, birding haven, and proximity to other national parks.
This sector has the bragging rights of habituating the inaugural gorilla family in 1991. It started with two families the Katendegyere and Mubare groups.
For several years, Buhoma has been home to just 3 habituated Gorilla families. This changed with the addition of Katwe and Muyambi.
40 Gorilla permits are presently available each day in this region of Bwindi Gorilla Park. It is thus prudent to book first.
The 5 Habituated Families In Buhoma
- Mubare Gorilla Family
- Habinyanja Gorilla Family
- Rushegura Gorilla Family
- Katwe Gorilla Family
- Muyambi Gorilla Family
The demand for Gorilla permits to see the above families is justifiably high. A combination of the above factors explain the heightened permit demand.
Such is the demand that some upmarket visitors base themselves at Buhoma but do their tracking at Ruhija about 45km to the southeast.
Here is a breakdown of the above Gorilla families in the Buhoma sector for you!
Mubare Gorilla Family
The Mubare family is code-named the M-group. It derives its name from the magnificent Mubare hills.
It is the revolutionary Gorilla group habituated in 1991. Subsequently, Mubare hosted visitors in 1993, two years later.
Originally, twelve family members were in the group but when their leader Ruhondeza died, only five of them remained.
In 2013, 4 other Mountain Gorillas joined the Mubare Gorilla group which boosted the current number to 9 family members. Comprising one silverback, black back, one adult female, and two juveniles. The Silverback Kanyonyi took charge, plus Kashundwe, the infant.
Habinyanja Gorilla Family
The Habinyanja group is also termed H-group. This group was initially discovered around a swamp in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Thus baptizing it Habinyanja which translates to Nyanja. The dominant silverback Makara currently leads this family.
It is among the pioneering Uganda Gorilla families in Buhoma trailhead. It was habituated in 1996 purposely for gorilla trekking. This was achieved in 1999 when it received its maiden visitors.
Thousands of visitors from the world over have visited the Habinyanja family since its opening. It is famous for extending beyond its range in Buhoma and colonizing new areas.
It originally had 30 members. However, following Mukurusi’s death, a territorial dispute between Rwansigazi and mwirima shattered the family. This resulted in the formation of the Rushegura group.
This H-group is currently composed of 18 members with mainly 2 silverbacks.
Rushegura Gorilla Family
The Rushegura group is also called R-group. It’s one of the famous larger Gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Kabukojo the silverback heads this group.
It’s a splinter family from the Habinyanja Gorilla family.
This “Habinyanja 2 group” quickly received a new name that references the “Ebishegura” tree species common in the family’s territory. And, It was first habituated in February 2002.
The R-group currently comprises 21 members; including one silverback, black back, five adult females, two sub-adults, six juveniles, and six infants.
Katwe Gorilla Family
The Katwe Gorilla family borrows its name from the hill where it was first habituated. And, this family is half of the two “new kids on the block.” The alpha silverback Mahaane leads this group.
The monitoring of the Katwe family began in January 2018 after the death of Kanyonyi of the Mubare group in November 2017.
Kanyonyi’s death caused the breakdown of the family members to originally unknown whereabouts.
When it was found out that some members of the Mubare family were in Katwe, habituation began. It was purposely to maintain an eye on the formerly habituated members and their new counterparts. The old members included Kashundwe and Malaika.
It currently consists of 9 members including 2 Silverbacks,3 adult females,2 sub-adults, and 2 juveniles.
Muyambi Gorilla Family
Muyambi is the newest group in the Buhoma region of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It was launched in early 2019.
It comprises 7 members, headed by 1 silverback – Muyambi.
Muyambi belonged to the Mubare family. He moved on to form another group which is named after him.
The family had a new addition that arrived in May 2020. It was such good news at the height of the Covid-19 Pandemic when the world was experiencing such untold misery.
Rushaga Sector In Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
This sector was grandly launched in October 2009 with high-profile stars from the USA gracing the occasion. The Gorilla habituation experience is exclusive to Rushaga. And, It boasts the highest number of Gorilla families (7) and 48 tracking permits.
Location of Rushaga sector: Rushaga sector is positioned at the southern edge of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. It’s located in the Kisoro District together with Nkuringo Region. Rushaga is set at an altitude of 1,900m.
This sector is opportunely located near Lake Mutanda which is one of the beautiful lava damned lakes in Uganda. You can enjoy a canoe ride on the lake before or after your Gorilla experience.
Generally, high hills dominate Rushaga Sector. As a result, habituated Gorilla families have kept on separating and subdividing to occupy different hills in the region.
Quite remarkably, because of these hills, if you choose to trek Gorillas of Uganda from Rushaga, this sector will duly reward you with great scenery!
You can enjoy the spectacular Virunga ranges that span Rwanda, Uganda, and the DRC. They include Mgahinga, Muhavura, Sabyinyo, Karusimbi, and Bisoke.
Also, If you are an ardent birder, Rushaga has got you covered. There are several beautiful species notably the Purple breasted sunbird, and the Kandt’s Waxbill.
Rushaga is the most accessible of the 4 trailheads for visitors who decide to track Gorillas as a day trip out of Kisoro or Lake Mutanda.
Are you planning to visit Mountain Gorillas In Bwindi soon? Rushaga will deliver the goods.
Let’s decipher the amazing Mountain Gorilla families there for you.
Nshongi Gorilla Family
The Nshongi Gorilla family was formed in 2009 with a lot of fanfare.
It currently boasts of over 25 Mountain Gorillas headed by Nshongi. The others include two sub-silverbacks, three blackbacks, six adult females, six juveniles, and three infants.
Interestingly, Nshongi is not the oldest silverback in the group. I guess he is just shrewd enough. All three silverbacks and seven blackbacks stayed peacefully. They have never had cases of power struggle.
Previously, Nshongi was one of the largest habituated Gorilla families in Bwindi with 34 gorillas.
Sadly, in 2010, Nshongi disintegrated and only 26 Mountain Gorillas were left as others went to form their own families. For instance the Mishaya gorilla family and the Bweza Gorilla family.
In 2013, the group still further broke down and reduced to 18 members with a new split establishing the current Bweza with ten Gorillas.
Currently, the Nshongi group consists of 11 individuals. It has 1 silver back, 1 black back, 5 adult females,2 juveniles, and 2 infants.
Mishaya Gorilla Group
Unresolved conflicts in the Nshongi group in July 2010, saw Silverback Mishaya quitting.
He formed a splinter that’s named after him. Mishaya moved on with other females.
Mishaya was an authentic fighter. He managed to recruit many females around, the number increased to twelve including 3 infants. Mishaya was famous for his aggression. He often began interactions with other Mountain Gorilla groups.
Mishaya sadly succumbed to obstruction of the intestinal gut on 3rd February 2014.
The lack of a spearheading leader after the death of Mishaya saw the crumble of the group. Some members joined the Bweza family, others joined the Bikingi family. The whereabouts of others could not be traced until May 2018. They were found under the headman ship of Tinfayo the silverback.
Tinfayo was a former member of the Nshongi group who left in 2012 accompanied by an adult female Shida and her infant Rotary.
As a matter of fact, these Gorillas had to be re-habituated to consolidate the monitoring of the already habituated members.
The Mishaya new group currently comprises 8 members, 1 silverback, and 5 adult females. 1 juvenile and 1 infant.
Kahungye Gorilla Family
The Kahungye Gorilla family consists of 14 Mountain Gorillas with two silverbacks
The alpha Silverback is Rumansi followed by the other 2 male Mountain Gorillas called Rwigi and Ruhamuka.
This family was ready for Gorilla tracking in 2011.
Less than a year later the group broke off leading to the birth of a new family called Busingye.
Before their split, the group was composed of 27 members including three silverbacks.
Busingye Gorilla Group
Busingye Gorilla group members were originally habituated from the Kahungye gorilla group in 2008.
The silverback Busingye decided to secede and form his group in March 2012. And consequently, he lent his name to the group. The name Busingye translates to “peace” which is ironic since this Silverback is famous for fights.
He enjoys showing off his power. Whenever he encounters a wild group, he mercilessly takes a female Gorilla to add to his own group.
Busingye is affectionately famous for foraging deep inside the forest, rarely seen on the park’s edges.
It currently consists of 9 members, including 1 silverback, 1 blackback, 3 adult females, 2 juveniles, and 3 infants.
Bweza Gorilla Group
The Bweza Gorilla family is currently led by Kakono the silverback.
The Bweza members were formerly part of the Nshongi Group up until 2013. The latter used to be the largest ever habituated in Bwindi.
This group likes to forage in the community land abutting Bwindi impenetrable national park. This land has adulterated vegetation in comparison to the virgin forest areas.
The group currently comprises of 15 members, including 3 silverbacks, 5 adult females, 1 sub-adult, 2 juveniles, and 4 infants.
Bikingi Gorilla Family
Habituation of the Bikingi Gorilla family in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park began as a review exercise of the dispersing members of the torn Mishaya family.
Actually, some members of the former Mishaya group were found together with other unhabituated Gorillas. They were later declared for re -habituation to keep tabs on the formerly habituated ones.
The Bikingi gorilla family is led by Bikingi a former solitary male, following the death of the original founder, Bikingi on 9th June 2018.
The Bwindi-Mgahinga conservation area chief park warden Nelson Guma notes that the unknown silverback that murdered the head silverback and took on the reins was named Bikingi too to maintain the group’s identity. The dead silverback was the identity of the group.
The original Bikingi died after a series of fights with the solitary male. His death was the climax.
Bwindi rangers suspected that the solitary male had always wanted to take over the leadership.
Following the death of the silverback Bikingi, all the members dispersed. Some members joined other groups. Notably, 7 members joined the Kahungye family.
Then, a search was launched and 9 members were found, including the solitary male
Ever since, the group has welcomed new births, boosting the number to 11 individuals.
They consist of 2 silverbacks, 5 adult females, 1 juvenile, and 4 infants.
Currently in Bwindi, this is the only family for the Gorilla habituation experience for tourists on Uganda Gorilla tours.
Rwigi Gorilla family
This family also calls Rushaga home.
Ruhija Sector Of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Ruhija is the most geographically diverse sector and they use it majorly for scientific research of Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi forest.
This is also the sole sector in the park where elephants are present. Other animals include monkeys and antelopes. It is home to three fully habituated Uganda Gorilla families.
In addition, Ruhija handles the extra visitors from Buhoma during peak season. It truly is magical.
Location Of Ruhija Sector: Ruhija sector is seated in the East of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and is easily accessible from Buhoma and Kabale. It is contiguous with the famous Queen Elizabeth National Park.
With an altitude just above 2,500m, Ruhija has striking views of forest ridge. You will be able to have a glimpse of the glorious Virunga Mountains.
Also, you can hike to the top of Rwamunyonyi peak (2,607m), known as the ‘hill of many birds. Rwamunyonyi is the highest and coldest point in Bwindi Forest, and there is a massive swamp here.
Despite having fewer Gorilla families, and fewer permits (24), Ruhija is a great option since it provides the most secluded experience. You get the ultimate feel of the jungle. Away from the madding crowd! Honestly, it is the real deal and you should discover it.
Bitukura Gorilla Family
The Bitukura group was christened after a river where the family members were first seen.
It consists of 13 members; 2 silverbacks, 2 blackbacks, 4 adult females, 2 juveniles, and 2infants, and 1 sub-adult.
The group was formerly headed by the silverback Ndahura. He tragically died in 2016 after falling from a tree.
The habituation started in July 2007. It was relatively a smooth process as the UWA rangers were already often encountering the Gorillas.
This group could already be visited by tourists within 15 months after the start despite the normal habituation process taking 2 years.
They are a tightly-knit family and often have “group meetings” or get-togethers. It is also known for tolerance of several males, even having up to 5 at times.
This group originally consisted of 24 members but due to strife within the family, some Gorillas moved on and were probably recruited by other families
Bitukura family usually forages close to the Ruhija tourism station of BINP. Occasionally, you will see it along the forest edges in the area.
Oruzogo Gorilla Family
The Oruzogo Gorilla family consists of 10 members: 1silverbacks, 4 blackbacks, 2 adult females, 1sub-adults, 2 juveniles, and 1 infant. It is under the leadership of the dominant silverback Bakwate.
This family was hit by the departure of Silverback Kasimali in June 2012 with 6 members. It reduced the original number of individuals from 17 to 10.
The Oruzogo family is warmly known for foraging and feeding on vegetation dominated by the Alchornea hitela plant. It is locally known as Oruzogo from which the group’s family name originates. It’s uniquely the only family that does this.
It’s one of the most well-liked families with tourists not just because of the size but the playful and energetic juveniles and toddlers in the group.
Kyaguliro Gorilla Family
Kyaguliro Gorilla family is under the steering of Rukara the silverback.
The group is exclusively dedicated to gorilla research purposes by the Manx Planck Institute (MPI). MPI’s research largely revolves around the group’s behavioral ecology and visits the family daily.
The group’s habituation commenced in 1995. Rukina the group head tragically died of electrocution due to lightning on 7th April 2015.
Following Rukina’s demise, the family was left under the shaky leadership of the amateur Mukiza. He was later attacked by an immigrating adult Silverback (Rukara) from the Bitukura family.
This unfortunately caused a split of the family in May 2016 creating Kyaguliro A – under Rukara and Kyaguliro B under Mukiza. After another recent split, the original Kyaguliro group remains with a measly 4 members.
These include 1 silver back, 2 black back, and 1 infant.
Mostly, the entire family is famous for spending the majority of its time chilling in the inner forest. They hardly get close to the forest’s peripherals.
Mukiza Gorilla Family
The Mukiza Gorilla family was originally named Kyaguliro B. And, the dominant silverback Mukiza heads it. It was formed in May 2016 after the disintegration of the main Kyaguliro group.
Similar to the Kyaguliro family, the Mukiza family is dedicated to Gorilla research by the Manx Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
True to its origins, the Mukiza family spends a lot of its time in the inner forest. It rarely comes to the outer parts of the forest.
The family received 2 new babies in 2021. This increased the number of members to 15.
They include 1 silverback, 7 adult females, 1 sub-adult, 1 juvenile, and 5 infants.
Nkuringo Sector Of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Nkuringo sector derives its name from the knoll-like forested hill that’s set beside the river but is dwarfed by loftier ridges above it. It was the Second, to be established in 2004, a decade after the launch of the Buhoma sector north of the park.
Furthermore, this is the most sought after by tourists, after Buhoma, with some of the most taxing to reach and most entertaining Gorilla groups in Uganda.
Nkuringo is popular for sheltering one of the most famous alpha silverbacks in Bwindi, Rafiki, who died at the hands of poachers during the June 2020 pandemic lockdown.
Location of the Nkuringo sector: It is located in the south of the park and set along the Nteko Ridge which offers spectacular views across the Kashasha valley into BINP. It lies at an altitude of 2100m.
Specifically, this sector has 3 habituated Mountain Gorilla groups with 24 permits available daily.
Let’s dissect these Uganda Gorilla families in Nkuringo together for those planning tour to Uganda to do Gorilla trekking in Bwindi.
Nkuringo Gorilla Family
The Nkuringo Gorilla family is named after Nkuringo. It is a local Rukiga word translating “round hill”, alluding to the hill where the group was first sighted.
This was the first Gorilla group to be habituated in the entire southern area of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in 1997.
The group originally had 17 members but dynamics such as departures, and death decimated this number.
The family was headed by one Silverback – Nkuringo who died in April 2004, leaving behind 2 Silverbacks Safari and Rafiki. Safari took over the reins. The same year in December, newborn twin babies Katungi and Muhozi arrived.
This was a first in the history of Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park! Sadly, Katungi passed away at the age of 1½ years due to illness.
Sadly, the hardships of the pandemic forced the neighboring communities with poaching as a means of survival. And, On June 1, 2020, Wildlife Poachers murdered the famous 25-year-old Rafiki Gorilla Silverback.
Those who had visited the Nkuringo Gorilla Family in Nkuringo and thousands of others shared their sorrow. Big news agencies far and wide reported on this tragic incident.
Nkuringo’s family’s future was hanging in the balance after the demise of the leader. A month later, the family stabilized with 12 individuals under the leadership of Rwamutwe the dominant black back. The other members include 4 black backs, 3 adult females, and 4 infants.
Members of the Nkuringo family are famous for foraging outside the park 98% of their time.
Their sustained venture into the local communities’ gardens feeding on bananas, sweet potatoes, and other crops was one of the reasons for their habituation.
Consequently, this has caused displacement of the former local human settlers in the frontline villages in the Nkuringo Sector to create a safety zone to minimize the human-wildlife interface.
By opening up the group for visitors, the community could directly benefit from tourism whilst ensuring protection for the Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi national park as well.
Bushaho Gorilla Family
Due to the sustained walkaway of individual members from the Nkuringo Family, an investigation was conducted in 2012.
It was detected that one of the Silverbacks previously a Nkuringo family member – SB Bahati who broke off earlier was manning a parallel family. Some of the members under his direction were former members of the Nkuringo family with other non-habituated members.
What was meant to be a follow-up exercise later turned into close monitoring of the behavior of the new counterpart family.
The group was subsequently habituated and named ‘Bushaho’ after the topo name of the locality where the group forages most. And eventually, Bushaho was later opened in 2016 for tracking.
It currently comprises 10 members: Led by Bahati – the Silverback, 1 black back, 3 adult females, 2 sub-adult females, and 3 infants.
Christmas Gorilla Family
The Christmas Gorilla family is headed by the silverback Christmas who was born on Christmas. This family has 9 members though often only 6 members can be seen.
It family was recently joined by a new baby born to an adult female called Nyabwoba on January 20th, 2022.
Frequently Asked Questions About Mountain Gorillas In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Well, Mountain Gorillas in Uganda are interesting animals that surely stir the curiosity of many who know or hear about them.
I know you want to demystify these glorious inhabitants of the mountainous forests
You can count on us to give you the accurate answers you need on anything Gorilla related if you want to come and check these amazing giants out in Bwindi.
Let’s dive in real quick!
Are Mountain Gorillas Endangered?
Mountain Gorillas are classified as endangered by the IUCN (International Union For Conservation of Nature) in 2018. They are under threat majorly by human pressure and poorly managed Gorilla tourism
Mountain Gorillas Going Extinct-Will Mountain Gorillas Go Extinct?
Despite the positive census results in 2018, Mountain Gorillas still face extinction.
Uganda Gorillas are still in dire need of protection. Man continues to encroach on their habitat and the danger of poorly managed tourism.
How Many Mountain Gorillas Are Left In The World in 2022?
According to the latest 2018 census results (released every 5-10 years), there are around 1063 Mountain Gorillas in the jungles of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and the Virunga Massif.
How Do Mountain Gorillas Say Hello?
It’s been recorded that Mountain Gorillas greet each other by touching their noses together and even hugging each other. This is however very rare.
Are Mountain Gorillas In Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Dangerous/ Do Mountain Gorillas Attack Humans?
Whereas Mountain Gorillas generally hold the reputation of being gentle giants, they can be dangerous if provoked!
They are largely peaceable creatures but that is not a license to mess around with them. Their wild instinct will kick in and you surely won’t like it!
Keep in mind that, Mountain Gorillas are considered the strongest primates, especially the Silverbacks whose long canines can tear a human apart effortlessly in no time.
The silverbacks from rival groups tend to have intense aggressive fights, even killing infants when they take over another group.
It is therefore wise to respect Gorillas and the guidelines of the rangers when encountering them in their territory.
Always remember, any slight sense of aggression towards them is a recipe for a vicious attack.
How Can Humans Help Mountain Gorillas In Bwindi National Park Survive? – How Can You Help The Mountain Gorillas In Bwindi National Park?
These fascinating giants tug at the hearts of many worldwide. I know you are one of them! However, interaction with Mountain Gorillas can prove even fatal to them.
Habitat loss and Disease transmission due to contact with humans threaten mountain gorilla survival.
Tourism, research, and the work of scientists are the factors standing between Mountain Gorillas and extinction. You can be part of this noble cause too!
You can help in several ways. The most ideal way would be to visit Mountain gorillas in Uganda, Rwanda, or Congo.
In the same sense, avoid Gorilla trekking while sick, and maintain the 7–meter rule when encountering these giants.
We understand that not everyone who wants to help Mountain Gorillas can afford an African gorilla tour. Here’s what you can do!
You can donate to Gorilla conservation projects, avoid products made from wild animals, and tell your friends about the conservation of Mountain Gorillas.
Alternatively, you can organize a fundraiser and have your people chip in.
What Makes A Mountain Gorilla Dangerous? | Why Can A Mountain Gorilla Charge At You?
Again, I have to stress that Mountain Gorillas are generally chill guys. They return the same energy you display. It’s a classic case of awakening the proverbial sleeping giant.
If you even slightly show you are a threat, Gorillas will be quick to pounce on you!
And honestly, you are no match to them strength-wise.
Here are the reasons why Gorillas can get mad at you.
- Limited human exposure after completion of the Gorilla habituation process
- Making impulsive unanticipated movements in the presence of Mountain Gorillas.
- Wearing bright clothes with noisy colors such as red.
- Getting very close/ near a group member.
- Making sustained piercing eye contact with an individual Gorilla
- Spending a lot of time with the group.
- Making loud noise especially by trackers while a Mountain Gorilla family is near.
- Visiting the Mountain Gorillas in big numbers.
- Obstructing or encircling the Gorilla group intentionally or not.
- Use of flash photography.
- Physically touching a Gorilla.
- Encountering a Gorilla an isolated mountain gorilla.
- Approaching a breastfeeding mother.
- A Gorilla having a tough day
How Do You Know A Mountain Gorilla Is Angry At You?
Mountain Gorillas display their anger by making loud grunts, hoots, alarm barks, roars and even tearing down vegetation. This is majorly done by the alpha male. They may also run sideways, slap the ground, or briefly charge at the intruder.
A silverback stands upright on his rear legs and thumps his chest in a show of power. Literally challenging the perceived threat into a fight
How Do You Stop A Mountain Gorilla From Attacking You?
Simply Lie Low!
It is prudent to avoid eye contact with gorillas. It works like magic. Gorillas especially the Silver backs are cocky and want to feel in charge, therefore exhibit all the submission you can master.
This will show you are not out to get them. Look away in the trees, maintaining vigilance.
Avoid Running Away
Don’t run away because Gorillas are very fast! They will catch you quicker than you imagine and the rest will be history.
Groom The Gorilla
If a Gorilla grabs your hand, be receptive and use the other hand to pet it. This will eliminate you from the threat list. I know this may be difficult to pull off in the heat of the moment, but it’s worth it.
Call For Help From The Rangers And Guides.
Encountering Gorillas is strictly done in the company of an armed ranger therefore your safety is guaranteed if you heed their direction. If the situation escalates, the armed ranger can shoot in the air to scare off gorillas or revert the attention to them.
Armed rangers can’t shoot endangered species. This is because Gorillas met in Bwindi are habituated, a process that takes 2 to 5 years. Therefore such situations are unheard of.
Why Do Mountain Gorillas In Bwindi Impenetrable Park Beat Their Chest?
Mountain Gorillas beat their chests to both attract females and terrify potential rivals. Chest pummeling is commonly done by the alpha male called the silverback.
Edward Wright, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany and his team did this research Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.
The scientists found that larger males let out chest beats with lower peak frequencies than the smaller males.
Never the less, younger subordinate males may also chest beat to practice and receive social feedback. Infants as young as 1-year-old do it during social play.
Mountain Gorillas live in close family groups headed by Silverback males. The authority is unceasingly questioned by other males.
And so, through this long –distance signal, silver backs display their size, mating status, and fighting ability to potential challengers. They are sounding a warning alarm.
Although Silver backs fight infrequently, rival males use this nonverbal communication to determine the competitive ability of the chest beater.
And whether to instigate, escalate or de-escalate from aggressive behaviors with the other. Not surprisingly, females most likely use the sound to determine whether a male is a good fit for a mate.
The researchers also found significant differences among males in both the number and duration of the chest beats. This suggested that like human fingerprints, they may have individual signatures.
Researchers deduced this while using a technique called photogrammetry. This enabled them to measure body size of adult male wild Mountain Gorillas.
Silverbacks chest beat relatively infrequently, on average 1.6 times per 10 hours. But, they may do so more frequently on days when females are in estrus. It is not as common as movies portray though.
If you are lucky, you can spot the Silverback beating its chest on your Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Why Are Mountain Gorillas In Bwindi Important?/Why Mountain Gorillas In Bwindi Forest Matter- Why Should We Save Mountain Gorillas?
Mountain Gorillas have this uncommon aesthetic appeal. They pull people from far and wide to come and catch a glimpse of them in their natural habitat. You will agree with me once you meet them in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
However, there are a number of reasons to save Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi and the Virunga ranges. Let’s chew on them below!
- Most significantly, Mountain Gorillas nourish the biodiversity of their forest homes.
These larger than life apes do this by acting as seed dispersers and opening up holes allowing plants to receive light and flourish
- In the same sense, Mountain Gorillas help to combat the existential climate crisis. The Dian Fossey Gorilla fund in one of their articles branded Gorillas “lungs of the planet” because of their contribution to the sustenance of forests. Cleaning the carbon monoxide and supplying us with clean air.
- Again, Mountain Gorillas play the role of umbrella species.
Protecting Gorillas has a snowball effect on the survival of numerous other species that inhabit tropical forests and may also be endangered
- Gorilla tourism is the other reason why Gorillas matter. It can rightly be called the backbone of the tourism sector in Uganda. Gorilla permits are quite expensive and the proceeds go to UWA and 20% goes to the local communities around Bwindi.
- Besides, Mountain Gorillas matter because they are our closest relatives. We share DNA. Their social structure has similarities with humanity. They fight for love, they are loyal, and they fight against each other. Indeed, they matter.
- Can Mountain Gorillas Be Kept In Zoos? | Why Aren’t Mountain Gorillas In Zoos?- H3
No, Mountain Gorillas can’t survive in captivity. Presently, no Mountain Gorillas are known to exist in any captive facility.
Sadly, various attempts were made to capture live mountain gorillas and start a captive population in the 1960s and 1970s.
Many adult Mountain Gorillas were killed to obtain live babies but this was in vain.
It’s quite unclear why Mountain Gorillas fail to survive since their lowland cousins have been kept and even bred successfully in captivity.
- It is widely believed that their dietary needs, specifically foliage render them more tailored to the mountainous bamboo forests.
- Also, Mountain Gorillas in captivity are more susceptible to stress which makes them easily catch diseases. For instance, It is believed that Kaboko the famous Gorilla in Congo died after the violence ensued just a mile from his residence.
- Gorillas, as earlier noted have ginormous appetites. So, keeping them in captivity unlike in the forests where they can “exercise” breeds obesity and death eventually.
However, there is only one orphaned mountain gorilla sanctuary in the world. That is the Senkwenkwe Centre at the Virunga National Park Headquarters at Rumangabo.
This center looks after orphaned and vulnerable Mountain Gorillas who are victims of poaching and war.
Park Rangers recaptured control of Virunga after a period of armed conflict at the beginning of 2009. Shortly after, Park staff began spreading the word about two young orphan mountain gorillas who were in their care.
Orphans Ndeze and Ndakasi pushed to live in a tiny compound in the nearby city of Goma as a result of the war. Contrary to their natural environment, Goma is a pollution melting pot and majorly built on a lava flow lacking of vegetation.
When security was restored in the Southern Sector, The perfect forest site was chosen to construct a care facility for the vulnerable orphaned mountain gorillas. It was named the Senkwekwe Center paying tribute to Senkwekwe the silverback that was killed in 2007.
Unfortunately, Ndakasi having succumbed to prolonged illness in September 2021.
There are two Gorillas at the center, Matabishi and Ndeze, who are thriving in a near wild enclosure that it is almost similar to their wild habitat, constructed with the support of the GRACE foundation in 2022.
Please Note! Mountain Gorillas should be left to thrive in their natural habitat. It is their true home, the reason why conservation efforts have been yielding positive results proven by the 2018 Gorilla census results.
In essence, Mountain Gorillas in Uganda are truly one of nature’s best gifts to man. You must not miss undertaking Bwindi Gorilla trekking on your safari Uganda tour.
These magnificent creatures are a key part of the fabric of the forests. They sustain our climate. Therefore, every conservation effort is worth it. It’s our shared responsibility to protect them since human pressure is the number one threat to their survival.
Do you have any questions about anything Gorilla related?
We are happy to help. Contact us today!