Mountain Gorilla Families in Bwindi Forest, Uganda

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Gorilla Safaris Uganda

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in south-western part of Uganda. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park boosts 14 habituated gorilla groups open for gorilla trekking. The habituated gorilla families are distributed within the size of the protected forest and accessible from four different trekking points: Buhoma sector located in North-West, Ruhija sector in the North-East; Rushaga and Nkuringo sector located in the South part of Bwindi forest.

Buhoma sector

The Buhoma sector was the first sector to start gorilla trekking safaris in Bwindi Forest National Park. This sector opened the first habituated gorilla groups for tourists in 1993 and the first gorilla family to be habituated was Mubare family. Buhoma sector has now 3 habituated gorilla groups all open for visitors for trekking and other activities including Muyanga Waterfall Walk, Rushura Hill Walk, Muzabajiro Loop, The Ivi River Walk, The Buhoma-Nkuringo Trail, The Habinyanja (Raleigh) Trail, cultural experience, birding safaris among others. Buhoma gorilla families include;

  • Mubare; Mubare gorilla group was the first group to be habituated for tourism in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. The gorilla group got is name after the Mubare hills where it was first sighted by the rangers. This gorilla group features 5 members headed by the silver back Kanyonyi an, Muyambi which is black back gorilla and Malaika which are the adult females and Kashundwe who is a baby.
  • Habinyanja; this gorilla group started in 1997 and by 1999 it had started receiving visitors. The name comes from a local word “Nyanja” which means ‘body of water’. It refers to the swamp in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where the group was first sighted. The group has 18 members including 2 silver backs.
  • Rushegura; also known as group R is the third gorilla group of Buhoma is disintegrated from Habinyanja under the administration of Mwirima silver back in 2002. The group derives its name from “Ebishegura” which is a tree species that was abundant in the home area of the new family. This is one of the calmest families and it’s not usually far from Buhoma Village. At times, the group members are seen wondering through the gardens of the lodges in Buhoma. The group has a family size of 20 members with 1 Silver back but initially group started with 12 individuals including 5 females.

Ruhija sector

Ruhija sector is located in the eastern part of Bwindi Forest National Park, a habitat to 480 mountain gorillas left in the wild. Ruhija sector is famous for its abundant bird life on top of the gorillas is considered the most remote sector of all the four. Ruhija is home to Bitukura, Oruzogo, Kyaguriro A and B. There is a three hour hike to visit the Mubwindi swamp and this rewards birder loves with countless bird species. Gorilla families in this sector include;

  • Bitukura; this gorilla family is the most peaceful family in Uganda and was discovered in 2007 and later on habituated which was a relatively easy process as the gorillas were already frequently encountered by the UWA rangers. The Bitukura group was named after a river where the family members were first sighted. The Bitukura Gorilla group family learns quickly.  Normally it takes two years of habituation training but this group was ready for visitors in 15 months. The group reduced to 11 members comprising of 3 silver backs, 2 black backs, 3 adults females, 1 juvenile and 2 infant.
  • Kyaguriro A and B; Kyaguriro is another habituated Gorilla Group that is not visited by tourists and has been set aside for research purposes and other studies. Keeping contact with this group helps conservationists to learn more about the mountain gorillas of Bwindi. Much as this group was reserve for research, it can be tracked when the demand for gorilla permit is high and only 6 people instead of 8 people are allowed to view Kyaguriro research group. In 2016, Kyaguriro split up into A and B, there occurred a fight where Mukiza took 10 members with him to form a new family where is the leader. Now there 10 members in Kyaguriro A family under Rukara comprising of 1 silver back, 3 adults, 2 black backs, 2 Juveniles and 2 infants. However, there are 10 members in the new group Kyaguriro B under Mukiza comprising 1 silver back, 4 adult females, and 1 sub-adult and 4 infant.
  • Oruzogo; this is another interesting group in Ruhija sector. This family is situated between Ruhija areas and is led by a dominant Silver back called “Tibirikwata” and currently there are 17 members in this group. It’s the latest habituated gorilla family and was opened for tourism on 20th June 2011. Family size of this group consists of 23 gorilla members with 2 silver backs namely Bakwate and Busungu who could be around 35 years of age. The Oruzogo group has become popular with tourists not just because of the size of the group, but because the playful energy exhibited by the juveniles and toddlers in the group that keep visitors entertained to say the least.

Rushaga sector

Rushaga sector boasts the highest number of gorilla families. It is located in the southern part of Bwindi between Kabale and Nkuringo coming from either Ruhija or Kampala. Groups here are considered difficult to track because of the steep landscapes.  Gorilla groups include;

  • Bweza; Bweza Gorilla Family is one of Nshongi Group that used to be the largest ever habituated in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The group is named after Bweza who led the group from Nshongi on the 1st August 2012. Towards the end of 2012, Bweza chose to be independent; he walked away with about 6 other members from the Mishaya Gorilla Group. Currently the group has 12 members including 2 silver backs, 3adult females, 4 black backs, 1 Juvenile and 2 infants.
  • Nshongi; Nshongi was once the largest group ever habituated with about 36 gorilla members and was officially introduced in September 2009 after two years of habituation . It was named after the river Nshongi, close to the place where the gorilla family was first seen. Two sections if the family members decided to break away whereby in July 2010, Mishaya one of the silver backs left the group with 10 members to form a separate group Mishaya leaving the group with 26 members. After Mishaya leaving the group, it paved way for other members to leave the group. Currently the group has 7 members including 1 silver, 3 adult females, and 1 sub-adult female and 1 infant.
  • Kahungye; Kahungye was opened for tourism in 2011, the name group originated from Kahungye hill because this area is the home range of this gorilla group. Originally the group had 29 members including 3 silver backs but due to intra-male rivalry the group split a year late into creating another group called Busingye. Currently the group is comprised of 17 members including Rumansi the dominant silver back, 2 other silver backs, 3 adult females, 3 black backs, 3 juveniles, 3 sub-adults and 2 infants.
  • Busingye; this group split from Kahungye group on 4th of June 2012 hence the current group new group to be opened for tourism. The family is currently comprised of 9 individuals including the dominant silver back Busingye, 3 adults’ females, 1 juvenile and 4 infants. The name Busingye is a Rukiga word meaning Peace, but this silver back is totally the opposite of his name because he is always picking fights with other groups.
  • Mishaya; This is a family that was formed by a Silver back named Mishaya which left the Nshongi group with 9 others in July 2010 to establish its own Mishaya Group. He left with 10 members but expanded the group 12 members by gathering other females from other groups. Mishaya is the only adult in the group and is known for being a fighter who often starts interactions with other gorilla families. On the 26th of April 2011, Mishaya clashed with a non –habituated gorilla family where he was seriously wounded together with his family members. He was treated and monitored until recovery. But, unfortunately Mishaya was found dead on 3rd of February 2014 by UWA trackers. He died at 28 years after a short illness, and at the time of his death, he was leading 10 members.

Nkuringo sector

Nkuringo sector lies south of Bwindi forest closely to the Buhoma sector which is about 10km from Buhoma although this distance is covered by the Impenetrable Forest and a walk through the forest takes about 4 hours. This area has the toughest terrain but the most interesting group to track found in this sector.

  • Nkuringo gorilla family; Nkuringo was the first gorilla group to habituated in southern headquarters of Bwindi park. Nkuringo is a local word meaning “round hill” It’s a word from the Rukiga language, referring to the hill where the group was first sighted. Nkuringo group was launched in 2004 after the 2 years of habituation process. One of the reasons for their habituation was their continued ventured into the local communities’ gardens feeding on bananas, sweet potatoes and other crops. Tracking the Nkuringo Gorilla Group requires a bit more energy and fitness. This is probably the toughest trek in Uganda but it is interesting because you enjoy the scenic view of Nkuringo. Currently the group is has 12 members including 2 silver backs, 2 adult females, 1 black back, 2 sub-adults, 3 juveniles and 2 infants including twins Katungi and Muhozi though the former died at the age of 18 months.
  • Bushaho group; this gorilla group is one of the two groups undergoing the habituation process together with Bikingi group. Do not miss a chance to participate in the gorilla habituation experience as you spend more time (four hours) with a closer encounter with mountain gorillas and learn about their interesting behaviors and take unforgettable photos and videos.

Members of this group were original members of Nkuringo family who had dispersed from the group. Later it was discovered that one of the former silver back Bahati of Nkuringo family led the parallel family to un – known place. They were later discovered in early 2012 after a search was launched. Later this group was named Bushaho because this is the name of the place where the family forages most. Bahati is still the dormant silver back of the group that comprises 8 members including 1 silver back, 3 adult females, 1 black back, and 1 sub-adult, 1 juvenile and 1 infant.

Nyakagezi gorilla group in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

  • Nyakagezi gorilla family; Nyakagezi Gorilla Group is the only family in Mgahinga Gorilla Park. The group is led by Mark, the dominant Silver back, who likes traveling and keeps on crossing borders between Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo.  Over the past few years however, the group has been stable and they are trying to settle on the Ugandan side since November 2012, and are likely to stay for a while. In May 2013 when a new-born baby gorilla arrived, increasing the group to 10 members. It is composed of 9 members with 4 Silver backs, 2 adult females, 1 Juvenile, 1 infant and 2 black back.

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