Gorilla Groups in Uganda

In Uganda, mountain gorillas are found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and Mgahinga National Park in the south western corner of the country.

Thanks to the efforts of the Uganda Wildlife Authority and other Virunga Region Conservation Programs, several travelers flock East Africa with Uganda inclusive for both mountain gorilla trekking and mountain gorilla habituation expeditions.

Mountain gorilla trekking is an interesting tourist activity in which tourists get a chance to hike and spend an hour with the intriguing creatures in their localities but they only visit the already habituated gorilla families.

Mountain gorilla habituation too is an amazing tourist activity in which the travelers get a chance to be a part of the team training and taming the wild mountain gorillas on how to coexist with human visitors harmoniously in their localities.

Apparently, mountain gorilla trekking is one of Uganda’s trending tourist activities with very rewarding experiences to the visitors as they get a chance to view and enjoy the rare endangered species of wildlife up close  for an hour; observing their different habits playing, eating, teasing, sleeping and even nurturing the young ones for the female gorillas.

Mountain gorillas live in gorilla family groups with each consisting of 10- 20 members and each of these families receives only 8 visitors in a day for their safety against contaminating human diseases and promote their wellbeing

 

There are 13 Habituated gorilla family groups in Uganda with 12 families situated in Bwindi Forest National Park and 1 family with in the Ngahinga National Park. All these family groups are available for tourist purposes throughout the year with only 1 family set aside for research and study purposes.

Bwindi Forest National Park is a very large forest and therefore divided into four sectors and each habituated with particular guerilla family groups and these are the Buhoma sector, Ruhija sector, Nkuringo and the Rushaga sectors.

BUHOMA SECTOR;

In the Buhoma sector of Bwindi Forest we find the Mubare, Habiyanja and the Rushegura, gorilla family groups.

Mubare Family Group: The oldest of all Uganda’s gorilla groups and was fully habituated by 1993 when it received its first visitors. At this point of habituation, it consisted of 12 members under Ruhondeza’s leadership and later spread to 18 and due to continuous attacks from wild gorillas, the group was reduced to 9 members. These are found within the Mubare Hills of Bwindi Forest National Park.

Habiyanja Family Group: The Habiyanja family was fully habituated by 1999 when it received its very first visitors. It’s known for its continuous power struggles between the dominant silver backs. It consists of 15 members under Kisho and are found around the Bwindi Swamp Area from where they derived their name “Nyanja”’ for a Water Body.

Rushegura Family Group: This was first visited in 2002 and was formed after a 1 silverback broke away from the main Habiyanja family; sometimes it’s referred to as the Habiyanja 2 family group.

It consisted of 12 members with 5 females at the time of its habituation.

It’s a very calm and friendly group to visit and even sometimes seen wondering in the Buhoma gardens, lodges and on the road especially the juveniles. It was named after the Ebishegura trees found within their home stead. Apparently it’s a family of 18 individuals without any silver backs.

RUHIJA SECTOR;

In the Ruhija sector of Bwindi Forest National Park we find the, Bitukura and the Oruzogo, gorilla family groups. There’s also the Kyaguriro Family Group.

Kyaguriro Family Group: This is a one known gorilla family that’s strictly set aside for study and research purposes in Uganda. With this group, researchers are able to learn quite a lot about the different behaviors and characteristics of mountain gorillas to an extent of having them distinguished according to their regions like the mountain gorillas of Bwindi Forest NP are different from those of Volcanoes NP.

The group consists of 15 family members with 2 silver backs under the leadership of Rukina after over powering Zeus.

Bitukura Family Group:  This is the family that has ever been habituated for the shortest time period of 15 months a contrast to the other families that extend 2- 3 years of habituation process. It was first visited in October, 2008, having starting its habituation process in July, 2007.

The group consisted of 24 family members at the time of its habituation who have been reduced to 14 individuals with 4 silverbacks. It’s a very unique group named after the river flowing through its home area and believed to be a very calm and peaceful group.

The Bitukura family group is led by a young silverback Ndahura, following into leadership after a retired Karamuzi after ruling for 40 years.

Oruzogo Family Group: This is another family of the Ruhija sector, here are basically two gorilla family groups. This family was ready for visits in 2011; where it also had 2 births from Ntamurungi in June and Musi in October and   in March of 2012; the group was further blessed with a pair of twins. It currently consists of 25 individuals with2 silver backs led by Tibirikwata.

NKURINGO SECTOR;

In the Nkuringo sector of Bwindi Forest National Park exists only the Nkuringo gorilla family group.

Nkuringo family group: This is the only gorilla family group within the Nkuringo sector of Bwindi Forest National Park. The group was first visited in 2004; following its habituation process that had come about as a solution to saving the gorillas and the community gardens as these were fond of feeding on the community foods in the gardens.

It was led by Nkuringo till 2008 when he passed on leaving power to his 2 silverbacks (Rafiki and Safari); and Safari took over its leadership, later the group was blessed with a set of twins (Katungi and Muhozi) though Katungi died a few months later.

This group consists of 19 family members with 2 silver backs.

RUSHAGA SECTOR;

In the Rushaga sector of Bwindi Forest National Park we find quite a number of gorilla family groups that is; Nhongi Gorilla Family Group, Mishaya Family group, Kahungye family group, Bweza and Bisungye family.

Nshongi Family Group: The largest group ever to be habituated Bwindi Forest NP; it consisted of 36 individuals with 4 silver backs all under Nhsongi’s leadership. It was named after deep Brown River flowing through its home stead. The group was ready for visitors in September 2009, however by July 2010; the group had to split into two groups one remaining as the Nshongi and the other Mishaya family group. The Nshongi group apparently consists of 26 family members with 4 silver backs.

Mishaya Family Group: This group was formed after breaking away from the Nshongi family; and started with 10 individuals with 1 silver back who later expanded in to 12 family members with 1 silver back, Mishaya the leader in April 2011 after staging an attack on another group.

This family group consists of 12 members and 1 dominant silverback.

Kahungye Family Group: This is an amazing group that was first visited in October 2011; but shortly after its formation; the group split up. It initially consisted of 27 members with 3 silver backs and after remained with 13 family members with 3 silver backs under the leadership of Gwigi.

Busingye Family Group: The Bisingye family group was formed after breaking away from Katungye group in 2012. It was named Busingye – peace which is a contradiction to the group leader’s tactics; he’s a one gorilla that usually fights fiercely to grab females from other wild families.

It is made of 9 individuals with 1 dominant silverback.

NYAKAGEZI FAMILY GROUP OF MGAHINGA NP;

This is the only 1 gorilla family group residing within Mgahinga Forest National Park. Something unique about this group; it’s always on the move as it has been known to move across all the 3 Virunga Region starts of Uganda, Rwanda and even Congo. The group is made of 10 individuals with 3 silver backs all under the leadership of Mark a traveling addict.

However, it seems to have settled as it has been in Uganda’s Mgahinga forest National Park since 2012 without moving to any other countries.