Gorillas in Rwanda
Mountain gorillas in Africa and Rwanda specifically are found in Volcanoes national park which is also known as Parc National Des Volcans in French and Pariki Y’lbirunga in local Kinyarwanda. Volcanoes national park is located in the northwestern part of Musanze village borders Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mgahinga national park in south western Uganda. Volcanoes national park is the oldest national park in Africa.
Gorilla trekking in volcanoes national park is a major activity that is carried out by visitors on different habituated gorilla families which include
- Sabyinyo family: this group was named after Mount Sabyinyo which is one of the Virunga volcanoes that translates to old man’s teeth. Sabyinyo family is one of the most accessible and easy to trek gorilla family due to its location on the slopes of Mt Sabinyo. It consists of 9 members including 1 silverback, 3 adult females, 1 non-adult female, 2 juveniles and one baby. The group is dominated by Guhonda silverback who is one of the oldest, powerful and largest silverback in volcanoes national park.
- Susa family: this is the biggest gorilla family with the oldest gorilla which was born in 1976. Susa is also known as Susa A which is one of the first Gorilla groups that Dian Fossey studied when she was still doing her research in Rwanda. Susa group lives in the lower base of Mt Karisimbi and is one of the hard to trek gorilla families though interesting due to the high altitudes where it’s normally found. Susa derives its name from river Susa which originates from Virunga volcanoes where it was first sighted. It consists of 28 members with 2 silverbacks and is dominated by Kurira hence sometimes referred to as Kurira group.
- Igisha family: this is also known as Susa B in that Igisha silverback who is the leader of the group split from Susa A in 2014 and moved with 23 members. Igisha family lives on the upper slopes of mt karisimbi and is composed of 30 members including 5 silverbacks, 7 adult females, 2 black backs, 3 sub-adult females, 5 juveniles and 8 infants.
- Umubano family: this is a gorilla family that was split from Amahoro due to disagreements and inabilities between Charles and Ubumwe silverback. The group consists of 11 members with 1 silverback Charles who is the leader of the group, 1 sub-adult male, 3 adult females and 6 infants. The two families of Charles and Ubumwe live in peace and sometimes when they meet, they don’t stage a fight.
- Agashya family: Agashya is a local name which means news who is the leader of the group. After habituation, the group had 13 members and was led by Nyakirima who was later overthrown by Agashya silverback who is security conscious for his family. The family lives on the slopes of Mt Sabyinyo and Mt Gahinga, it consists of 25 members including, 1 silverback, 12 adult females, 4 juveniles and 7 babies.
- Amahoro family: the name Amahoro means peace hence the family is known for its peaceful ways, therefore, keeps on losing members to other families. The group lives on the slopes of Mt Visoke and Karisimbi comprising of 17 members including 1 silverback, 2 black backs, 5 adult females, 5 juveniles and 4 young babies, the group is dominated by Ubumwe silverback and is hard to trek because of its location which has long hikes.
- Hirwa family: the name Hirwa means lucky one and was habituated in 2006 with members who came from Sabyinyo family and Agashya family. The group lives between Mt Sabyinyo and Mt Gahinga and is known for producing twins in 2011. It consists of 9 members including 3 adult females, 2 sub-adult females, 3 babies and one silverback Munyinga who is also a leader of the group.
- Muhoza family: this gorilla family is led by Muhoza silverback who split from Hirwa family and went with 2 adult females to form his own group in 2016. Muhoza group is now comprised of 11 members including one silverback, 6 adult females, 2 sub-adult females and 2 infants.
- Kwitonda family: the group derided its name from Kwitonda silverback which was the dominant silverback before it died in 2012 at the age of 40 years. The group originally lived in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003 and later moved to Volcanoes national park. The group is comprised of 18 members with 4 silverbacks and inhabits on the slopes of Mt Muhabura hence one of the hard families to trek in that it keeps moving to far areas in the forest.
- Karisimbi family: the group was first known as Susa B because it split off from Susa group in 2009 and later changed to Karisimbi in 2010. The group consists of 16 members with, led by Nyagakangaga silverback and lives on the upper slopes of Mt Karisimbi which sits on an altitude of 4507m high and is the highest peak in the Virunga volcanoes which makes Karisimbi the hardest group to trek in volcanoes national park.
- Isimbi family, this gorilla family split from Karisimbi group in 2012 and was led by Getty silverback who later died in 2013 due to pneumonia. After his death, the family was led by a black back silverback Muturengere with the help of an adult female poppy who is said to be the oldest female gorilla in Isimbi family. The group is now comprised of 18 members including 7 adult females, 1 silverback, 4 juveniles and 6 infants.
- Ugenda family: this is one of the gorilla families in volcanoes national park that hardly settles in one place in that it is always on the move in search of food hence its name Ugenda which means mobile. The group lives on the slopes of Mt Bisoke and is comprised of 11 members with 2 silverbacks.
- Bwengye family: the group was open in 2007 for gorilla trekking is one of the popular groups in that some of its members featured in the gorillas in the mist film which was documented by Dian Fossey in 1988. After habituation, the family lost 6 members which affected its expansion but currently, it is comprised of 11 members and lives on the slopes of Mt Bisoke.
- Titus family: the group was habituated in the days of Dian Fossey and is one of the oldest groups in Volcanoes national park.it was named after the dominant silverback Titus who was born when Dian Fossey was still carrying out research on mountain gorillas at Karisoke Research Centre. Titus’ family was murdered by poachers when he was still young and was the only one left. Titus died of natural causes at the age of 35 years in 2009 and is known as the most successful because he had many offsprings. Titus family lives on the slopes of Mt Karisimbi and Visoke consists of 7 members and is set aside for research in that it is only available for trekking when there is a shortage of gorilla permits in Volcanoes national park.
- Pablo family: this is a gorilla group that is followed by Dian Fossey gorilla fund hence reserved for study purposes and is only accessed by researchers and scientists and the group is composed of 13 members.
Volcanoes national park is one of the best tourist attractions with the endangered mountain gorillas which give you great and interesting experiences during your gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda.