Buhoma Gorilla region – Gorilla groups in Buhoma – Gorilla trekking permits in Uganda
Buhoma Gorilla region has five (5) Gorilla families habituated for trekking while one is for research. Gorilla families in Buhoma include, Rushegura, Habinyanja, Mubare and Binyindo which is still under habituation and research. Mountain Gorilla Habituation takes about two-three years and below are the Gorilla families in Buhoma Gorilla region the northern part of Bwindi National Park.
MUBARE GORILLA FAMILY
- Family size: 5 members
Mubare is the oldest habituated Gorilla group in Uganda. It was found in the Mubare hills, deep in Bwindi forest, and was fully habituated in 1993. This family started with 12 family members, led by the dominant silverback Ruhondeza. In a few years the group grew to 18 individuals. Unfortunately, due to fights with wild Gorilla groups it lost some of the members.
Mubare Gorilla family in Buhoma sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park was the first of the Uganda Mountain Gorillas to be habituated in 1998. It was first sighted by trackers around the Mubare hills found deep in Bwindi Impenetrable forest. It was led by the late Ruhondeza a silverback who died in 2013 after a serous fight with a blackbuck in the family. He had to surrender and left the family after losing to a blackbuck.
The dominant silver back in the group by then was the late Ruhondeza and back then he ruled a family with over 18 Gorillas. Over the years his family has shrunk in number. This was because as he aged, he never groomed a successor. Ruhondeza was a jealous kind of silverback. The Uganda Wildlife Authority trackers suspected that he would kill off any upcoming blackbucks who would be tempted to usurp his position.
2009 was particularly a 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 one had not been weaned and couldn’t eat.
From 18 members, the group continued to lose members until they were only five members. In March 2012, Mubare under Ruhondeza was attacked by a wild/unhabituated Gorilla group defeating Ruhondeza and taking way some females from the group. Out of frustration, Ruhondeza had to quit leadership of the group and took refuge in the nearby community forest. Because the community loved him so much, they never chased him away and Uganda wildlife Authority kept on monitoring him. Later on, he had to pass away and was found dead in sleep. He was given a decent burial near Uganda Wildlife Authority headquarters and if you visit Buhoma, kindly ask the guide to show you the grave of this great silverback.
HABINYANJA GORILLA FAMILY
- Family size: 16 members
The Habinyanja Gorilla group was first visited by tourists in 1999. It acquired its name from the word “Nyanja” a local word for a small river in the forest where they were first seen. Habinyanja is a fascinating family with a lot of drama and commotion. This is because of the power struggles between the dominant silverbacks and fights for the family leadership. The adult females are led by the shrewd alpha female called Kisho.
Habinyanja group of Gorillas is among the five habituated gorilla families that can be trekked from Buhoma where one called Binyindo is mainly for research.To reach the starting point, you sometimes need to drive for 30-45 minutes to reach the trail head at Nyamishaba village depending on where they are.
This Gorilla Family was habituated in 1997 and the first group of tourists tracked this Gorilla family in 1999. Habinyanja Group derives its name from a Rukiga word “Nyanja” which means “a place with water”. This family was first seen near swamp ponds in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
At the time of habituation, Mugurusi which is means “Old man” in Rikiga was the dominant silverback amidst his old age. The most interesting part of this was that at the time of habituation, Mugirusi was commanding a big group of 30 members which is quite big compared to other families whether habituated or not habituated. As time went on, Mugurusi had to pass away because of old age. This later caused succession disputes as the siblings were fighting for leadership of the family. This was because at the time of Mugurusi’s death, the family had four silverbacks waiting in the cue of who would succeed their father. These silver backs were Rwansigazi which means “The youthful boy”, Mwirima which means “darkness” and then Makara “Charcoal”.
Rwansigazi was supposed to succeed Mugurusi but because at the time of his death Mwirima had equally grown stronger and thus wanted to challenge for family leadership. For several years, Rwansigazi and Mwirima shared power after their father’s death but as time went on, something had to happen.
History has it that because of the differences, these two silverbacks decided to separate and make two Gorilla families depending on the interest of the members. In 2002, the family had to separate and those members that preferred adventure followed Rwansigazi while those who preferred a small range remained with Mwirima. No fights were report at the time of separation. The group that stayed with Rwansigazi maintained the name Habinyanja while the one that left came to be known as Rushegura.
RUSHEGURA GORILLA FAMILY
- Family size: 15 members
The Rushegura Gorilla family was brought together in 2002, after one of the silverbacks from the Habinyanja group decided to break away after a separation between the leadership. They started with 12 individuals. This “Habinyanya 2 group” quickly received a new name that derives from “Ebishegura” tree specie that was abundant in the home area of the new family. The Rushegura family is calm. In the past they used to cross the border to neighboring DRC every now and then but always returned to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. They are usually not far from Buhoma village and sometimes even wander through the gardens of the lodges in this sector.
Rushegura family in Buhoma Gorilla region, part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park where normally tourists start from the park headquarters to track this Gorilla family and sometimes you might need to drive for up to 15 minutes for its trail head in Mukono village.
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 breakaway was led by the late Mwirima, a strong-massive silverback desirous to form his own family, carrying away with him seven members. He later died and now the Rushegura is under the leadership of a strong blackbuck.
The group was opened for Tourism in 2002 since the individuals had been habituated under the original Habinyanja family.
True to Late 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 was on record to have sired a number of off springs so far.
The group which is known to at times cross in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, currently has no silverback and 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.
Late Mwirima used to determine the movements of the group leading to appropriate feeding sites as well as mediating conflicts within the family. With the five adults bonded to Late Mwirima for most of the time. With the death of Mwirima in 2014 an influential blackbuck has taken over control of the family.
KATWE GORILLA FAMILY
- Family size: 9 members
Katwe Gorilla family is a new Gorilla family in Buhoma and open to tourists. Thi family is comprised of 9 members with 1 silverback, 2 blackbucks, 4 adult females and 2 infants.
Uganda wildlife Authority announced this new gorilla group called Katwe Gorilla family in the northern sector of the great Bwindi impenetrable National Park in 2018. According to a statement issued by Uganda wildlife Authority and addressed to Tour operators and other stake holders, Katwe Gorilla group which has been under habituation can now be reserved and booked for Gorilla trekking in the sector. Katwe Gorilla family now brings the total number of habituated mountain gorilla families to four in Buhoma the fifth being Binyindo which is still under habituation.
Initially Buhoma Gorilla region of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park had only three habituated Mountain Gorilla groups including Mubare group (The first Gorilla family to be habituated and opened for Gorilla trekking in 1993), Rushegura (The darling of tourists who visit Buhoma for Gorilla trekking) and Habinyanja Gorilla group.
It took up to three years to habituate and complete Katwe Gorilla family located in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Gorilla habituation is a process of making sure that Wild Mountain Gorillas get used to human presence in their natural habitat. According to reliable sources, Katwe Gorilla family located in the northern part of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park known as Buhoma Gorilla region and has nine members as of now.
BINYINDO GORILLA FAMILY
- Family size 6 members
Binyindo family is also located in Buhoma Gorilla region the northern sector in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This family has 6 members with 1 dominant male and its still under the habituation process.
This family of Gorillas is only followed by Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers and researchers for study purposes as well as habituating it to get used to human presence in their natural habitat the forest of Bwindi National Park on a daily basis. All the habituated gorilla families which are open to tourists for trekking go through the same process which takes 2-3 years before opening them for tracking.
Rangers find some challenges as they try to befriend these giant and endangered apes and get them used to human. They are always aggressive and so protective most especially the mothers and the dominant males. The rangers take all what it takes to learn their behaviors and their vocals to find a suitable way of communicating to them and showing them that they are not a threat and after sometime they get used to human presence.
After that process that’s when the Uganda Wildlife Authority opens that particular family to tourists for trekking. Great Adventures Uganda is always in position to provide you with relevant information about our gorilla tracking sectors and Gorilla families in Bwind Impenetrable National Park Uganda.
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