Virunga National Park has 8 Gorilla Groups/ families in Congo habituated for gorilla tracking and tourism purposes.
Rugendo is among the first groups to be habituated alongside Rugabo and Zunguruka in 1985. At its formation, the group was led by the Silverback Rugendo which was unfortunately killed by rebels in 2001 in Bukima area. Rugendo is known to be the father to many Silverbacks in Virunga National Park, namely; Mapuwa, Humba, Ruzirabwoba, Mukunda, Nyakamwe; Mburanumwe; Baseka; Kongomani; Lubutu and Bahati. After his death, his son Senkwekwe took over leadership of the group until 2007 when he was murdered with 5other gorillas of his group by unknown people.
The group remained without leadership for a couple of months until 2008 when the solitary Silverback Bukima took over it’s leadership. Bukima was initially a member of Buhanga group and spent some time in Munyaga group before becoming a solitary Silverback in 2005. Rugendo group is currently headed by the Silverback Rugendo and composed of 9 individuals including 3 Silverbacks, 1 Blackback,1 Adult female, 2 Sub- adult females and 2 babies. Rugendo group is fond of moving around the Mikeno sector between Bukima and Bikenge areas of the Virunga National Park in the DRC.
Munyaga group is found in Bukima area of the Virunga National park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Silverback Munyaga was a lone wild Silveback before 1998. In February 1998, Munyaga met Buhanga group then headed by the adult female Nsekuye and took advantage of the absence of a dominant Silverback in the group and made himself the group leader. Later the group interacted several times with Kabirizi group until Munyaga lost all his females to Kabirizi group. After that, Munyaga disappeared for two years (2007-2008). Following his disappearance, Mawazo took over leadership of the group until today. Currently the group is made up of 9 individuals including 3 Silverbacks, 2 Adult females, 2 Juveniles, and 2 babies.
Mapuwa Silverback, Virunga NP Congo
This group is found in Jomba area of the Virunga National Park in the DRC. Mapuwa group was formed in 1998 by Mapuwa Silverback. Mapuwa is a son to the Silverback Rugendo and evolved in Rugendo group. In August 1995, Mapuwa left Rugendo group at the same time as his brother Ruzirabwoba for solitary life. On 01/08/98, Mapuwa interacted with Lulengo group and grabbed 2 females (Kagofero and Kanepo) to form his own group – Mapuwa. Mapuwa group is currently composed of 22 individuals including; 3 Silverbacks, 3 Blackbacks, 6 Adult females, 2 Sub-adult females, 4 Juveniles and 5 babies. Mapuwa group is currently headed by the Silverback Mapuwa
Lulengo group is found in Jomba area of the Virunga National park in DRC. Initially known as Rugabo, the group’s habituation started in 1985 with the Silverback Rugabo as the group head. Unfortunately, Rugabo and 2 other females were brutally shot dead in 1994 in Jomba. Related to this incident, the juvenile Mvuyekure (current Silverback in Mapuwa family) was carried away by poachers with the aim of selling him off in Uganda; fortunately, Mvuyekure was rescued and the poachers were arrested and imprisoned.
So following the death of Rugabo, his son Lulengo took over leadership of the group which was composed of 12 individuals at the time. A couple of interactions that saw to the transfer of some individuals from Lulengo to other groups was witnessed, for instance; in 1998 Lulengo interacted with Mapuwa group and a good number of his members crossed to Mapuwa while in 2014 another interaction was noted between Lulengo and Rugendo – this saw to the transfer of the juvénile Lulengo from Lulengo group to Rugendo group. Currently, Lulengo group is led by the Silverback Lulengo and composed of 9 individuals including;1Silverback, 3 Adult females, 1 Sub-adult male, 1 juvenile and 3 babies.
Kabirizi gorilla group members, Virunga NP Congo
Around 1994, Zunguruka group led by the Silverback Zunguruka was habituated in Bukima area. Zunguruka later died of old age and left his son Ndungutse to lead the group, until 1997, when he (Ndugutse) was killed by bullets in a cross fire between DR Congo army and Rwandan rebels near the Bukima patrol post. After Ndungutse’s death, his son Buhanga took over the leadership of the group with 13 individuals.
Unfortunately, Buhanga faced resistance from his brother Karateka. Later, the two brothers Buhanga and Karateka fought, forcing Karateka to leave the group with 3 individuals. On 10/01/1998, Buhanga interacted with Karateka and grabbed back 3 individuals leaving Karateka a lone Silverback. On 06/02/1998, Buhanga had a violent interaction with Kabirizi (then alone Silverback too) that left him with serious wounds, which later claimed his life. Surprisingly Buhanga in his wounded condition was still able to protect and keep all his group members together. After his death, an adult female called Nsekuye took over the leadership of this wandering group. Her leadership did not last long since on 23/02/1998, she was overthrown by a lone silverback called Munyaga. On the other hand, Kabirizi grabbed a few individuals from Luwawa group whose dominant Silverback Luwawa was killed in 1995. Later, Kabirizi interacted with Munyaga several times until he grabbed all his females to form a big group. On 27/01/2013, Kabirizi group split into two. Kabirizi remained with 16 individuals while his son Bageni took away 20 individuals.
Currently, Kabirizi group is still headed by the Silverback Kabirizi and is composed of 19 individuals including; 2 Silverbacks, 1 Blackback, 4 adult females, 1 Sub-adult male, 3 Sub-adult females, 4 Juveniles and 4 infants. Kabirizi group is found in Bukima area of the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo- DRC.
Bageni group is found in Bukima and Gatovu areas of the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – DRC. Bageni group is headed by the Silverback Bangeni and is composed of 26 individuals including; 1 Silverback, 2 Blackbacks, 10 Adult females, 1 Sub-adult female, 3 Juveniles, and 9 babies. Bageni group was formed in January 2013 after Bageni the silverback split from his father’s group (Kabirizi group). Bageni moved away with 20 individuals including his mother Mapendo and brothers and formed his own group called Bageni.
Nyakamwe group is headed by the Silverback Nyakamwe and found in Bukima area of the Virunga National park in the DRC. Nyakamwe group was created in 2014 as a result of the split in Humba group. Nyakamwe Silverback had internal conflicts with his brother Humba and ended up leaving the group on 20/04/2014 with 10 individuals, leaving Humba group with only 5 individuals. Currently, Nyakamwe group consists of 11 individuals including 2 Silverbacks, 1 Blackback,3 Adult females,1 Sub-adult female, 2 juveniles and 2 babies.
Humba group was created in 1998 following a split from Rugendo group. Humba a son to Rugendo, broke away from Rugendo group with 6 individuals leaving the father Rugendo with just 9 individuals. Interestingly the Silverback Nyakamwe decided to go with his brother Humba. By 2014, Humba group had increased to 16 individuals, unfortunately Humba and his brother Nyakamwe got into a fight leading to the split of the group. Humba stayed with only 6 individuals while his brother Nyakamwe walked away with 10 individuals. In February 2015 Humba interacted with Munyaga group and surprisingly the sub-adult female Kakule Munyaga left Munyaga group for Humba group. Today the group is composed of 10 individuals including; 3 Silverbacks, 2 Adult females, 1Sub-adult female, 2 juveniles, and 2 babies. The group is still headed by the Silverback Humba. Humba group is known for ranging between Gatovu and Bikenge areas of the Virunga National park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).