Family Size: 12
|Silverback: Ndahura, Rukumu, Karamuzi, Rukara|
|Blackback: Mugisha, Obia|
|Adult Female: Ruhara, Kamunga, Betina|
|Infant: Mubwindi, Kadogo|
Family Size: 14
|Silverback: Makara, Rwansigazi|
|Adult Female: Kisho, Nyabukye, Binyonko, Rugyendo, Nyamuhango|
|Juvenile: Elsa, Hamusini|
|Infant: Hakato, Gacyaro, Bagenyi|
In the past one decade of interaction with this group it has provided enough intrigue, drama, power struggles, secret trysts and back-stabbings to rival the best (or worst) Hollywood, Bollywood or Nollywood family dramas.The saga begins during habituation in the reign of the dominant but aging silverback patriarch, Mukurusi. He was the undisputed leader of a peaceful family of about 30 individuals – a large number even by gorilla family standards. Mukurusi means ‘old man’ in Rukiga, whose days were numbered and sure enough, he soon passed away, leaving several sons. In most families – on and off-screen – the death of the patriarch unleashes smouldering sibling rivalries. Mukurusi’s brood was no exception. The first cause of friction was family leadership. This thorny issue was brought about by the fact that there were four silverbacks in the group. These being: Rwansigazi – A silverback at father’s death he was next-in-line to lead the family, but his dominance was not guaranteed because of his half-brothers. Mwirima – Also a silverback male gorilla at father’s death and a contender for supremacy; initially, both brothers shared power but it was only a matter of time before the situation came to a head.
Further fueling the struggles for dominance were Mukurusi’s other sons; The young and restless, Makara; The black-sheep (or is it gorilla) of the family, Binyindo and Maraya, he of elastic morals and equally elastic loyalties. The unfolding family chronicle is further embellished by the adult females of the group, led by the shrewd, self-styled, alpha female, one-eyed Kisho.
After the death of Mukurusi the original Habinyanja group remained as a family unit under the leadership of the two eldest silverbacks, Rwansigazi and Mwirima for a number of years. The two brothers would have continued living as one family unit except for one irreconcilable difference. Rwansigazi favoured a large home-range and would lead the family in difficult marches far away from the much smaller home range which Mukurusi had favoured. Perhaps Rwansigazi was satisfying a need to explore the world that he felt was denied him by his father who, at his advanced age, didn’t have the ability to travel long distances. Whatever the reason, his brother and co-leader, Mwirima preferred to keep the family within a narrower area.
On Valentine’s Day 2002, what could have potentially been a cause of conflict that may have ended in the death of one of the leading silverbacks, resolved itself peacefully. Rwansigazi may have communicated to the group that they were in for a long trek that day. To which Mwirima may have replied: “Well, I don’t fancy a long walk in the woods today bro, how about you just mozzey along without me and (turning to the group) whichever of you gals wants to hang around with me just feel free to do so.” That settled matters in an easy, friendly manner and the family divided with a cheerful “Cheerio” from both sides. The group that stayed with Rwansigazi maintained the name Habinyanja.
Family Size: 15
|Silverback: Rukina, Marembo|
|Blackback: Kafuzi, Byiza|
|Adult Female: Binyindo, Siatu, Mugwere, Tindamanyere, Twigukye, Matu|
|Juvenile: Happy, Thursday, Mukiza, Kabandize|
Family Size: 6
|Blackback: Kanyonyi, Muyambi|
|Adult Female: Kashundwe, Malaika|
|Infant: Kashundwe Baby|
The dominant silverback in the group has always been Ruhondeza and back then he ruled a family with over 18 gorillas. Over the years his family has shrunk in number (as Ruhondeza has shrunk in size). This is because the now aging monarch has not groomed a successor. He’s the jealous type it seems. The UWA trackers have long suspected that he kills off any up coming blackbacks who may be tempted to usurp his position.2009 has been a particularly hard year for this family with a loss of three of its members. Early in the year one of the adult females died of a fracture to the skull. She left behind a wee infant of six months, whom the group tried to care for. The baby was found dead on Ruhondeza’s bed by trackers one morning. As the little mite had not been weaned and couldn’t eat
Family Size: 31
|Silverback: Nshongi, Mishaya, Kakono, Bweza, Busasi|
|Blackback: Matama, Bwire, Bunwa, Kutu, Tifayo|
|Adult Female: Nkuhene, Bakunzi, Mwiza, Munini, Shidah, Bukozo,Nyampundu, Bwiruka|
|Juvenile: Tindatine, Mize, Mahoro, Mureba, Ruheruka, Muchunguzi, Rutaro|
|Infant: Mpororo, Fortunate, Katono, Kazani, Mukiza, Ninsiima|
Several ‘conspiracy’ theories surround his leadership role. One being that he has inherited his father, Mishaya’s dominant position before the patriarch dies. Peace and harmony currently prevail, but for how long? Nshongi’s unrivalled dominance could be under threat from Busasi, the aggressive young blackback who may soon contend for dominance. This is even more likely with the unsettling presence of the adult female Bwiruka who is a favourite of Nshongi’s and has also been known to have secret trysts with Bweza.
What about the adult females in the family? Where do their loyalties lie? With three silverbacks in the family, each having mating privileges, the females in this group are spoilt for choice and it will be intriguing to follow the preferences of the females over this delicate matter of the available and eligible males in the family. How will the fortunes of this family unfold once the blackbacks mature into silverbacks? Friend them and follow the family drama.
Family Size: 19
|Silverback: Safari, Kirungi, Rafiki|
|Blackback: Bahati, Posho, Karibu, X-Mas|
|Adult Female: Kwetonda, Kasotora, Mama Xmas, Samehe|
|Juvenile: Ramutwe, Magara, Kwesima, Kuhirwa|
|Infant: Tabu, Fulaha, Katungi & Muhozi “The Twins”, Kiiza|
Family Size: 19
|Adult Female: Kibande, Nyamunwa, Karungi, Kirinvi, Buzinza|
|Juvenile: Kalembeezi, Ruterana, Kanywani, Kafuruka, Nyampazi, Karungi Juvenile|
|Infant: Kibande baby infant, Kirinvi Baby infant, Karungi Baby, Nyamunwa Baby, Buzinza baby|
Rushegura is the name of a place where the separation of this group from the larger family of Habinyanja took place in February 2002.
The break – away was led by Mwirima, a strong-massive silverback , desirous to form his own family, carrying away with him seven members .
Mwirima, a son of Mukurusi, parted ways with his brother ,Rwansigazi who was famous for taking the gorillas on distant ranging expeditions, while Mwirima preferred shorter ranges.
The group was opened for Tourism in 2002 since the individuals had been habituated under the original Habinyanja family .
True to Mwirima’s determination to found a large –stable family,he worked so hard that by April 2010,the individuals had increased to 19 from the original 8.He is on record to have sired a number of off springs so far.
The group which is known to at times cross in neigbhouring Democratic Republic of Congo ,currently boasts of a one Silverback ,five Adult females ,one Blackback ,and a host of juveniles and infants.
The individuals under Mwirima feel secure given his proven heroics in fighting off rival and wild groups. Mwirima is known to engage in severe fights in protection of his sovereignty and the family, using his sharp canines, slapping and tearing vegetation , chest beating and thumping the ground with palms to display the end of the battle.
Rangers cite a recent example when Rushegura group encountered a wild Makare group against whom Mwirima fought tooth and nail ,triumphed and ensured the group stayed feeding in the battle field for two days to celebrate his rare feat.
Mwirima determines the movements of the group leading to appropriate feeding sites as well as mediating conflicts within the family. With the five adults bonded to Mwirima for most of the time, watch out if Kabukojo the influential – fast maturing Blackback will keep submitting to this dominant Silverback ,choose to lure some females into starting his independent family or even overthrowing Mwirima to take over the mantle of Rushegura group.
Newly Habituated gorilla families include
Mishaya, Oruzongo and Kahungye. Watch this space for their details with Katona Tours and Travel.
Compiled by Jackie