Gorilla's families in Virunga National Park Congo DRC

Virunga National Park counted six mountain gorilla families open for the trekking before it was closed in 2012 for insecurity in the area. Unfortunately, in 2013 the national park is facing great challenges, including encroachment of the gorilla habitat by armed groups (the M23 rebels occupied the Mikeno area of the park and the Congolese army the Rwindi sector), increasing poaching also in the savannah area and even the possibility that some areas of the park will be degazzetted for oil exploration. This is very bad news for a site which is UNESCO World Heritage Site (from 1979), but became World Heritage Site in Danger since 1994. The maintaining of the status of Heritage Site is incompatible with the concessions of oil exploration by the Government of Congo in areas inside the national park. In December 2012 a survey carried out in the Mikeno sector counted about 100 mountain gorillas with 7 new born, however monitoring became increasingly dangerous for the park officers. Below you find information about the mountain gorilla’s families habituated in Virunga National Park at the time when the park was open. The status of insecurity in the region and the lack of State control is a serious threat to the conservation of mountain gorillas and even to those rangers who still put their life in danger to protect this park and whose work should be rewarded. The family is composed of 34 Gorillas including 2 Silverbacks. The group is found in Bukima sector which is close to Goma and the group is led by Kabirizi Silver back. The group derived its name from an ICCN Director who died in a traffic accident in the late 1990s. Previously, the silver back Kabirizi was not a habituated gorilla family and instead a wild gorilla. Later in 1998, he was named the head of his family after habituation. Formerly, this group was known as Ndungutse family because by then it was led by Ndungutse Silverback who was assassinated in 1997 after being caught in crossfire between the DR Congo army and Rwandan rebels near the Bukima patrol post

Kabirizi Family

The family is composed of 34 Gorillas including 2 Silverbacks. The group is found in Bukima sector which is close to Goma and the group is led by Kabirizi Silver back. The group derived its name from an ICCN Director who died in a traffic accident in the late 1990s. Previously, the silver back Kabirizi was not a habituated gorilla family and instead a wild gorilla. Later in 1998, he was named the head of his family after habituation. Formerly, this group was known as Ndungutse family because by then it was led by Ndungutse Silverback who was assassinated in 1997 after being caught in crossfire between the DR Congo army and Rwandan rebels near the Bukima patrol post.

Humba Family

The group is led by Humba silverback and is also found in Bukima sector of the Park close to Goma. It is composed of 16 Gorillas including 2 Silverbacks. This is so far the calmest habituated Gorilla group and many tourists and ranger like to track it. Humba is a brother to Senkwekwe Silverback who was executed on 22nd July 2007 by unidentified gun men. Humba split from Rugendo (His father) in 1998 and since he has been a Silverback till now.

Rugendo Family

The group has six individuals of gorillas including three Silverbacks. It is led by Rugendo the father of Humba. It was habituated in 1989 and by 1997 the group had 18 individuals with two Silverbacks (Rugendo and his son Humba). When Humba split from his father in 1998, only 8 Individuals stayed with Rugendo and in the next few years, there was increase in the number of the Gorillas in this group because of the consecutive births that followed. In 1999, there were two births in the Rugendo group from the adult female Safi who gave birth to Katembo, and Neza also gave birth. However on 15th July 2001, the Rugendo group was caught up in clashes between the military and the Interahamwe militia groups and as a result Rugendo the Silverback was shot dead just 40 meters from the park boundary. In 2007, the group was attacked and 4 Gorillas were shot dead including 3 adult females (Safari, Neza, and Mburanumwe) and the Senkwekwe who was the lead Silverback a successor of Rugendo.

Mapuwa Family

The group is composed of 15 individuals of gorillas with 1 silverback and is found in Jomba near Bunagana (Congo-Uganda border). The group is lead by a silverback named Mapuwa and has acquired and protected his family by all means even in violent struggle. He was a son of Rugendo and left his father’s camp in 1998 and started his own family. When he left, he took along 2 adult females named Jicho and Mafaze. Continuously, he fought wars to acquire more females like in 2002, he fought with Pili-Pili and acquired 3 individuals from him and leaving him solitary. Consecutive births have occurred until now that the family has 15 individuals.

Lulengo Family

The group has 6 gorillas and 1 silverback. It is led by Lulengo himself and is found in Jomba near Bunagana (Congo-Uganda border). Lulengo was born into the Rugabo Family which was the first mountain gorilla family in the Mikeno Sector to be habituated. Formerly the group was called ‘Musekura’ but the Rangers changed his name to Lulengo in the memory of the Technical Director of Virunga National Park who was killed by a land mine. His father Rugabo also died violently when he was shot by poachers during the Great Lakes Refugee Crisis in 1994. After his death, the family was left in the hands of his sons Lulengo (Blackback), Pili-Pili, Mareru and Nvuyekure (Juvenile).

Munyaga Family

The group is located in Bukima close to Goma and has 7 gorillas with 2 silverbacks. It was the last Gorilla group to be found by rangers in 2008. The family was led by Munyaga by then the Silverback and the dominant adult female is named Bilali. She was from the Rugendo group in 2004 and after she joined, she had two babies but they both died in infancy. At the same time, Munyaga also disappeared and as of now, the group is under Silverback Mawazo who lived with Buhanga until 1997, then joined Karatega, then went back to Buhanga in 1998 and then, a month later, he joined the Munyaga Family.

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