Gorilla Families in Virunga National Park
Gorilla Families in Virunga National Park: There are eight Gorilla Families in Virunga National Park which are available for tourists to track any time of the year. Virunga national park is located in the eastern province of the Democratic Republic of Congo and it is one of the three places in the world where visitors are able to see the rare mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. The other two countries where you can track mountain gorillas is in Bwindi Impenetrable national park and Mgahinga Gorilla national park in Uganda; and finally in Volcanoes national park in Rwanda.
Virunga national park in Congo happens to be the oldest national park following its establishment in 1925. It is also one of the largest protected areas in Africa, covering an area of approximately 8,090 square kilometers. Here are the gorilla groups in Virunga national park that tourists can track during your gorilla trekking safari in Congo;
- Nyakamwe Gorilla Family.
Nyakamwe gorilla group in Virunga national park in Congo is one of the recently habituated gorilla groups in the park. The group was habituated together with the Bageni group, which is apparently the largest gorilla group in the national park. The Nyakamwe gorilla group consists of 11 members and is led by a dominant silverback called Nyakamwe. The silverback Nyakamwe is a brother to Humba, the dominant silverback of the Humba gorilla group. The group was formed in 2014 after it split from the Humba group, and can currently be found in the Bukima section of the national park.
- Rugendo Gorilla Group.
The Rugendo gorilla group in Virunga national park is among one of the oldest habituated gorilla groups in the national park. This gorilla group currently has 9 members and was habituated in 1989. The group is led by a dominate silverback named Bukima, who took over the group’s leadership after the death of its lead silverback, Rugendo. Rugendo is remembered for fathering most of the silverbacks in Virunga, including Humba. In 1997, the group was originally composed of 18 members including two silverbacks, Rugendo and his son Humba. Later in 1998, Humba challenged his father in a duo and left with 10 members to form his current gorilla group which is now called Humba. The groups has undergone quite a number of changes in regards to new members joining the group such as its current dominate silverback Bukima, who is originally from the Buhanga gorilla family/group.
- Kabirizi Gorilla Group.
Visitors who wish to track the Kabirizi gorilla group can find it within the Bukima sector of Virunga national park. The gorilla group consists of about 19 members. It was previously known as ‘Ndungutse’ after its former dominant silverback called Ndungutse. Unfortunately, he was killed in 1997 after being caught in a cross fire between the Congolese government and Rwandan rebel forces. Ndungutse took over the leadership of this group after his father Zunguruka who died of old age. After the death of Ndungutse, a dominant silverback named ‘Kabirizi’ took over leadership of the group. He was a wild gorilla that was habituated in 1998, and is known to be powerful and yet humble gorilla. This gorilla group is named after the former Director of ICCN, who was killed in a fatal car accident. The dominate male gorilla (Kabirizi) is facing a lot of stiff competition from an ambitious silverback called Masibo. Visitors tracking this gorilla group start from Bukima Patrol Post.
- Mapuwa Gorilla Group.
The Mapuwa gorilla group in Virunga national park is strategically located in Jomba near Bunagana, Congo’s border with Uganda. The group derives its name from its former leader named ‘Mapuwa’ and consists of 22 members. Mapuwa was fathered by Rugendo and the youngster left his father’s group in 1998 to start his own family, and took two females with him named Jicho and Mafaze. While still alive, Mapuwa successfully defended his family from both internal and external threats. He fought with a dominant silverback called ‘Pilipili’ in 2002 and stripped him of all his group members, thus remaining as a lone silverback. The Mapuwa gorilla group is currently being led by a dominate silverback named ‘Mvuyekure.’
- Humba Gorilla Group.
The Humba gorilla group in Virunga national park in Congo is led by a dominate silverback named Humba. The group comprises 10 individuals and is situated within Gatovu and Bikenge sections of Virunga national park. Humba was separated from his father’s group in 1998 after he challenged his father. He is also a brother to Senkwekwe, who was killed in 2007 by unknown gunmen. By 2014, this gorilla group had 16 members but later split following a challenge between Humba and Nyakamwe, the current leader of the Nyakamwe gorilla group. The Humba family has received recent additions to the group such as Kakule, a female gorilla from the Munyaga group.
- Lulengo Gorilla Group.
The Lulengo gorilla group in Virunga national park is also located in Jomba near Bunagana which is Congo’s border with Uganda. The groups currently has 9 members and is led by a dominate silverback called Lulengo. This gorilla group was previously known as Musekura before its name was later changed to Lulengo. Lulengo the current silverback took over the group following the death of his father Rugabo, who was killed by poachers. Lulengo was named after the former Technical Director of the national park who was killed by a land mine.
- Bageni Gorilla Group.
The Bageni gorilla group in Virunga national park is currently the largest gorilla group in the national park. This group was habituated at the same time as the Nyakamwe gorilla group. It currently consists of about 26 members and is led by a silverback named ‘Bageni.’ The group also consists of two other silverbacks named Kanamaharagi and Kitagenda, who are constantly challenging Bageni for the leadership position in the group. Both researchers and park guides fear that there might be a split in the group in the near future.
- Munyaga Gorilla Group.
The Munyaga gorilla family is one of the Gorilla Families in Virunga National Park and is famous among tourists because of one of its female gorillas named Bilali. She gave birth to a set of twins who later died at infancy. This group derives its name from one of its former leaders who was called Munyaga. After his death, a silverback named Mawazo took over leadership of the group. At present, this gorilla group is led by a dominate silverback gorilla named ‘Gasore.’ The Munyaga gorilla group consists of 7 members and was first habituated in 2008. The group is also famous for its bald headed silverback named ‘Kadogo.’
How much does gorilla trekking in Virunga national park cost?
A gorilla trekking permit in Virunga national park in Congo costs USD 400 dollars per person. Security of visitors in the national park is guaranteed with armed security officials accompanying visitors to and from the national park in Goma.