Uganda is surely the pearl of Africa endowed with about half of the worlds endangered mountain gorillas gifted with 39 families, the country is one of the best places to encounter a gorilla trekking experience besides Rwanda and Democratic republic of Congo. The year 1991 is when Uganda started habituating gorillas.
Uganda has got half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas and most are concentrated on the world UNESCO site Bwindi impenetrable national park, others are on the volcanoes of mount Mgahinga national park. Uganda has habituated 13 of the gorilla families 11 of which is found in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and the other 11 in Bwindi national park. In Rushaga area of Bwindi Forest National Park, there is a habituated group for research purposes. Some of the gorilla groups in Uganda are;
The Rushegura group was formed when the Habinyanja group members divided and formed their own group led by Mwirima. The group stays at Bwindi though it used to roam along the Congo border. The group’s name was derived from a local word for “Ebishegura” to mean a certain tree species that the gorillas normally stayed within. The group contains 19 members including 1 Silverback. The group can be seen in gorilla nest camp and Buhoma area occasionally. Since the death of Mwirima the group leadership was taken over by Kabukojo. The name Rushegura is derived from a place where the separation took place.
The group derives it’s name from a local word “Nyanga” to mean “water bodies”. It got it’s name from a swamp in Bwindi where it was first seen. It was habituated in 1977 and first visited by tourists in 1999. This group has got 18 members and interesting 2 Silverbacks renowned for their fights over the leadership of his family. This group was split from the 30 member family under the leadership of Mugurusi. When Mugurusi died there was a lot of commotion in the family as Makara, Mwirima and Rwansigazi, the three siblings fought for leadership until the year 2003.
When Rwasigazi parted with some of the family members who had his adventurous characteristics, the group was called Habinyanja while Mwirimas group was named Rushegura. The group is usually unstable because of their continuous fights for leadership between Rwasigazi and Makara though in Rushegura group no fights have been recorded so far. It’s one of the hard places to trek as it can take up to eight hours. In June 2011 a group of poachers attacked this family and killed a black back known as Mizano who was got with wounds of Spears all over his body. This was the first time a gorilla was killed by poachers since 1995.
The Bitukura group is dominated by Ndahura comprising of fourteen members including 4 Silverbacks. The group is always seen having fun with the Kyaguriro group used for research purposes. Bitukura group was habituated in 2007 and opened up for tourism in 2008. The group derives its name from River Bitukura where they were first seen. This group was first dominated by Karamuzi who ruled for over four years before retiring.
This group was earlier on dominated by a silver back known as Ruhondeza, a name that means “One who over sleeps”. It was sighted in the Mubare hills where it’s name was derived by Uganda wildlife rangers. Mubare group was habituated in 1991 and is the oldest gorilla group in Uganda. This gorilla family has got very interesting history as Ruhondeza was always ambitious about expanding the family. He was also selfish in that he always killed or exiled young Silverbacks in order for him not to be overpowered. Ruhondeza’s fights costed him his health and at some point he was attacked by a wild gorilla who exiled him.
Unfortunately he was found dead in June 2012. Ruhondeza lost most his group members to fights that included a female that left behind a child who was found on his bed but died a few days later. Ruhondeza was succeeded by Kanyonyi and are now numbering to 9 members including 1 Silverback. This group can be trekked in the Buhoma area of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This group has got a baby named Kashundwe.
The Nshongi group derives its name from the Nshongi River that passes through a place the group calls a home. The word is derived from a local word to mean “Omushongi Gwoboki” referring to honey and the deep color of this particular river. This group is unique in a way that a younger Silverback reigns over the older ones which is not common among primates. This group is dominated by Nshongi. This was the largest gorilla family group until 2009 when Mishaya and Bweza group split to form their own and Nshongi remained with only 18 members. This group is commonly seen in Rushaga forested area.
The Oruzogo group can be tracked in the Ruhija area and is likely the most visited by tourists due to its dominant silverback known as Tibirikwata. It comprises of 23 members opened up for tourism in the year 2011, Tiribikwata is renowned for its playful skill and very interesting to behold this endangered species in its habitat. The group also contains a set of twins born to Kakoba in March 2012.
This group stays in Ruhija area and comprises of 15 members and it’s purposely reserved for research purposes. The group was early on dominated by an old gorilla known as Zeus who died after being exiled by his rival Rukina. Researchers have been able to study more about gorillas through this group also marking their differences with gorillas in the virunga massif.
This group was part of the Mishaya group that split from the famous Nshongi group; this group is composed of 7 members with one silverback under the leadership of Bweza.
This group dominated by a silverback known as Busingye was formed after breaking away from Kahungye group. This group inhabits it’s name from the dominant Busingye renowned for forcing other members from other gorillas families to join his whenever there’s a dispute, the name Busingye however means “peaceful” though it doesn’t portray the personality of the group leader as he’s always showing his power by grabbing females from wild gorilla groups.
The Nyakagezi group is the most adventurous group led by a silver back known as Mark who often leads the groups in three countries Rwanda, Congo and Uganda it’s also the only habitiated group in Mgahinga national park. Before trekking this group rangers must first allocate where they are the day before I order for tourists to book permits at the parks headquarters this is because this group is always mobile and on the move every time, since the group welcomed a new born into the family in 2013 the movement had a it stabilized to the Uganda side.
Nkuringo is a local word to mean “round hill” this group was first sighted in the Nkuringo hill and was dominated by a gorilla known as Nkuringo who had two sons know as Safari and Rafiki. Their father died in the year 2008 and Safari took over the father’s role, it one of the hardest groups to track and the only one found in Nkuringo area, thought the group was blessed with a set of twins one of the twins died after being I’ll they were Muhozi and Katungi. This group comprises of 19 members and 2 Silverbacks. The main reason for habituating this group was because they normally attacked and destroyed people’s gardens of mostly bananas hence tourism revenue would help in compensation of the locals. Unfortunately Katungi the twin died due to illness.
This group is composed of 13 members with 3 Silverbacks, dominated by Rumansi, before Busingye group broke a part they were 27 members with 3 Silverbacks when it was opened for tourism in the year 2011. The group inhabits the Rushaga area like the Busingye group. The group’s is led by a dominant silverback known as “Gwigi” meaning “door”.
The group derived its name from the famous dominant Silverback Mishaya who broke off from the Nshongi group, it contains of 9 members. Mishaya is renowned for protecting his family against other raiding groups this group can be trekked in Rushaga sector of Bwindi national park. There was an incident in April 2011 where he met with a non habituated gorilla group which led to a serious fight where he sustained injuries. When trekking gorillas, the expected time to find them cannot be predicted as they keep on moving from one place to another some tourists easily find them while others trek all day. Mountain gorillas are one of those animals you should encounter on your safari to Africa. Accommodation varies from mid range, budget and luxurious. Where to sleep will depend on the gorilla family you would love to trek then get a hotel in that area.