Most Mountain Gorilla Groups in Congo are habituated and can only be found in the Virunga National Park. The park has eight gorilla families as of 2016. In comparison to Rwanda’s Gorilla groups or Gorilla groups in Uganda, there has been instability with gorilla families in Congo. The park has reopened and is very safe for tourists after being closed in 2012 due to the activities related to armed groups and poachers. Habituated Gorilla Families in Virunga National Park Congo
In the past, some park officials have tragically lost their lives to poachers and armed rebel groups. These incidents occurred during clashes between government and rebel armed groups within the park’s vicinity. Recently, however, heightened oil exploration activities conducted by the government within the park range have raised significant concerns regarding the future of mountain gorilla families and the broader ecosystem, including its diverse flora and fauna.
These are sad occurrences considering that the country is blessed with far more tourism resources than perhaps any of the other Mountain gorilla trekking countries. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has the potential to become the number one tourist destination in East and Central Africa, with its total peace restored and full control of its habituated gorilla families and tourism resources. However, tourists planning to track gorillas in the DRC should be aware that the park is currently safe and tourists are given great protection within and outside the park. Poaching has been reduced and almost eliminated in Virunga National Park, with armed guards, guides, and park wardens always on the lookout for tourists and mountain gorillas. Buying gorilla permits is cheaper in Congo at USD400 when compared to Uganda at USD600 and Rwanda at USD1500. Habituated Gorilla Families in Virunga National Park Congo
This calm group of 10 members is located in Bukima and was named after Humba the lead silverback. Humba separated from his father Rugendo in 1998 with 6 individuals and is a brother of Senkwekwe who was killed by gunmen in 2007. In 2014, the Humba group had 16 members but a split between Humba and his brother Nyakamwe reduced the group number. Habituated Gorilla Families in Virunga National Park Congo
Nyakamwe left Humba’s group with 10 individuals, leaving Humba with 6. The group’s number has since increased due to new births and the acquisition of individuals from other groups, such as Kakule the female from the Munyaga group. This group is very popular with tourists and lives in the Gatovu and Bikenge sections of the park.
Gorilla groups and families in Virunga National Park This group is led by Kabirizi the powerful but humble silverback. They are found in the Bukima section near Goma. The group gets its name from the Director of ICCN who died in a traffic accident. This Congo gorilla group was initially known as the “Ndungutse” group after Ndungutse the dominant silverback. Ndungutse replaced his father Zunguruka who died of old age. Unfortunately, Ndungutse was shot dead in 1997 after being caught in a crossfire between government and Rwandan rebel forces. These events and others like infighting and rivalry paved way for Kabirizi a wild gorilla to take over the group. However a new young but ambitious silverback Masibo has now emerged and threatens to undermine Kabirizi’s leadership. You can read about how the allocation of gorilla groups is done.
The group, consisting of 7 members, including juveniles and babies, is currently led by Gasore. It was named after its former leader Munyaga, who was succeeded by Mawazo and then Gasore, the current dominant male. Park wardens discovered this group last in 2008. The Munyaga group, situated in the Bukima sector of the park, is cherished by visitors for the presence of female Bilali, her set of twins, and Kadogo, the bald-headed silverback.
The Bageni group contains 26 individuals and is the largest group in the park. The group is found in the Gatovu and Bukima sections of the park. Bageni leads this group after splitting from the Kabirizi group. Because of its size, there is tension and frequent challenges to the leading silverback Bageni. These tensions within the group have made some predict a split in the near future.
This group is named after its former great leader Rugendo but is now led by silverback Bukima originally from the Buhanga group. Bukima now leads one of the oldest (1989) habituated gorilla groups in the park. Although the group now contains 9 members, it was not always so. There have been great changes in the group – especially after Rugendo the former leader fought his son Humba (leader of the Humba group).
The group had 18 members but Humba left with 10 members after the fight. Rugendo remained with 8 members but was killed during clashes between the Congolese army and a Rwandan rebel group. Rugendo is credited for fathering many of the great silverbacks who went on to lead their own groups in the park.
The Lulengo Gorilla Group, currently led by the dominant silverback Lulengo, consists of 9 members. They can be found in the Jomba region near the border of Congo and Uganda. This group has an intriguing history since its habituation. Originally known as Musekura, it was later renamed after the current silverback, Lulengo, in memory of a park Director who lost his life to a land mine. Lulengo assumed leadership of the group after his father, Rugabo, from the Rugabo group, was killed by poachers.
The Mapuwa group is composed of 22 individuals and is located in Jomba near the border with Uganda. Mvuyekure currently leads this group after taking over from Mapuwa the son of Rugendo. Mapuwa had left his father Rugendo with two females Mafaze and Jicho to start his own family under difficult hurdles. Mapuwa had to fight frequently to protect his family but also to acquire new members to his group. He had to deal with Pilipili, a strong silverback in the park to remain the dominant silverback. Apart from the leadership of Mapuwa and now Mvuyekure, the group has also grown because of new births. The group has 2 other silverbacks, 4 juveniles, and 5 babies.
This group is composed of 11 members and is named after Nyakamwe the dominant silverback and leader. The Nyakamwe group was formed in 2014 as a result of a split from the Humba group. Nyakamwe had for long had conflicts with his brother Humba and a split was inevitable. This group’s habituation is recent and occurred at the same time as the Bageni group – the largest gorilla group in the park. The group has babies and 2 juveniles and is found in the Bukima area of the park.
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