Virunga Gorilla Groups : The exhilarating Virunga Gorilla Groups are one of the reasons why thousands of visitors are more than ready to go off-the-beaten-track and beat all odds in making trips to the somewhat unsafe Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. There are numerous gorilla families that call the rainforest of Virunga National Park home but only eight of these have been fully habituated for trekking by visitors. These gorilla groups have interesting facts that will blow your mind and these include;
Kabirizi Gorilla Group
Majority of the present members of Kabirizi Gorilla Group were formerly part of Zunguruka group, habituated in 1994 and headed by a prominent silverback with the same name. After the passing of Silverback Zunguruka as a result of old age, one of his sons (named Ndungutse) took over leadership roles until his death in 1997 (by poachers) but he was also succeeded by Buhanga (another Ndugutse son).
However, two years later (on 2nd February), Buhanga also lost his life as a result of a battle with Kabirizi. The group was led by Nsekuye (a female gorilla) for a short time until Munyanga, a solitary silverback whose origin was a mystery became leader but his reign was also short-lived when Kabirizi grabbed all the females. Nsekuye lost her life on 1st April 2010 but between 1998 and 2012, Kabirizi grew his family to an outstanding 36 members until he was also challenged by Bageni, his own son who also left with over 20 members. There are over 24 members in Kabirizi gorilla group at the time of writing.
Bageni Gorilla Group
This interesting Gorilla Group was started by Bageni, son to Kabirizi who reached adulthood in 2010 but still remained with his father until 2013 when he challenged him to a battle and took over 20 members. This group was formed on the 27th January 2013 with 20 members that included 8 adult females (including his biological mother Mapendo), 2 silverbacks, 1 blackback (called Ntamuvulira) and several females. Surprisingly even after taking such a huge number of members, Bageni was still not contented and continued challenging the father in subsequent years. In January 2015 he grabbed another adult female thus leaving Kabirizi group with only 3 adult females.
Bageni the silverback still continued challenging silverbacks in other groups, the notable one being in May 2019 when he collided with Willungunla the leader of an unidentified gorilla group of 40 members just undergoing habituation thus taking 2 adult females. From the time of formation until March 2020, this group had welcomed over 19 babies and sadly lost 6 members thus remaining with about 36 members that include 3 silverbacks.
Mapuwa Gorilla group
This Group was formed in 1995 by silverback Mapuwa, former member of Rugendo Gorilla Group. Prior to establishing this group, he left his natal group together with his brother Ruzirabwoba to become solitary males. It is from here that he developed the ambition of becoming an independent leader but it took 3 years of patiently waiting for him to attack Lulengo Group, taking 2 adult females. He didn’t stop there but instead attacked Rugabo and Kwitonda Groups in 1999 and in the same year was joined by 4 gorillas. Between 2000 and 2009 the group grew to over 15 members, resulting from migrations and in-group births and by March 2020 there were already about 22 members.
Aging Mapuwa lost his position in 2017 to silverback Mvuyekure, forcing him to temporarily live in exile but later made a U-Turn and came back to the group (as a subordinate silverback). There are currently about 24 members that include 2 silverbacks.
Rugendo Gorilla Group
Having existed since 1984, Rugendo is famed for being one of the first gorilla groups to be habituated in Virunga National Park, living within Jomba area. There were already about 18 members in 1998 from the 10 who were counted in 1984 prior to breaking into two in December 1998. This split resulted from the fight between Rugendo and his son Humba thus leading to the formation of Humba Gorilla Group. Rugendo unfortunately lost his life in the cold hands of Rebel groups in 2001 (within Bukima area) and the group was taken over by Senkwekwe. Six years later, Senkwekwe was also tragically murdered together with 5 other gorillas. Following his death, the remaining members remained without a leader and direction until 2009 when Senkwekwe Gorilla Orphanage center was established. This group has since grown to over 11 members led by Bukima, Virunga Gorilla Groups.
Lulengo Gorilla Group
This group was led by Rugabo (also Marcel) at the time of habituation but was killed in 194 alongside two female gorillas while an infant known as Mvuyekure was kidnapped by poachers. These poachers were reportedly trying to see the young gorilla in Uganda but were arrested and the group was taken over by Lulengo. There were about 12 members at the time but after the numerous battles with Mapuwa, Lulengo lost more members but the clash with Rugendo in 2014 was advantageous because this group was later joined by Bagambe an adult female. There are presently 11 members here.
Munyaga Gorilla Group
Although Munyaga Gorilla Group was officially habituated in 1998, it was already known by Researchers because of the constant interaction with another Gorilla group (referred as Buhanga). These interactions led to the migration of some members into Munyaga Group that include two male gorillas (brothers) and many others. There was a battle between Buhanga and Kabirizi, leading to murder of the former making Munyaga to take some of its members and afterwards Kabirizi the silverback battled Munyaga again making him to take the remaining females of Buhanga. However following over four years of endless fights, the number of Munyaga Gorilla Group reduced by half to 6 members and this frustrated the silverback who mysterious disappeared between 2007 and 2008. Given the fact that their home range was traumatized by CNDP rebels, the group remained unmonitored by Park Authorities during which Mawazo became the leader.
Humba Gorilla Group
The origin of Humba Gorilla Group is traced back in December 1998 when Humba (a young silverback) challenged his father Rugendo thus splitting the group into two and leading to the birth of this phenomenal group. Humba reportedly left with then young brother (Nyakamwe) to form his own group, which has through the year grown into 17 members in 2009. However, in April 2014, internal conflicts issued between the two prominent brothers leading to the break of this group and formation of another led by Nyakamwe. The older brother (Humba) remained with 6 members while the rest were taken by the younger brother. The present battle in this group is on who remains leader of the 13-member group between Humba and his son Mahundure.
Nyakamwe Gorilla Group
Nyakamwe Gorilla Group was formed in 2014 and named after the dominant silverback who had originally left his natal group (Rugendo) together with his older brother (Humba). Following the formation of Humba Group in 1998, Nyakamwe followed his older brother as a subordinate silverback but a flight issued between them in 2014. This led to their split with Nyakamwe taking the highest number of members and leaving his brother with only 6 members. Nyakamwe continued expanding his group and in August 2015 battled Kabirizi and took one of the adult females (known as Kabila). There are presently 14 members in the group after 6 babies were born, 3 members died and one joined from another group through the years.