Habituated Gorilla Families in Uganda

With over 480 mountain gorillas that thrive in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga National Park, Uganda is undoubtedly one of the incredible destinations that you should visit while on safari in Africa. Out of 900 mountain gorillas that are still thriving on earth, Uganda refuges half of them while the rest are shared between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. About 36 gorilla groups are found within Bwindi Impenetrable National Park but only 11 of them have been set for gorilla tourism and one that is only tracked in Mgahinga National Park. In Bwindi National Park, there are four tracking sectors (Buhoma, Rushaga, Nkuringo and Ruhija region) and each of them features habituated families.

Below is a list of gorilla groups in Uganda

Mubare group

This is the oldest gorilla group and first to be habituated in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. It derived its name from Mubare hills and it is situated within Buhoma area of Bwindi National Park. It is headed by Kanyonyi silverback. Habituation of the family began in October 1991 by well trained experts from Uganda Wildlife Authority and completed 2 (two) years. It was established around 1998. During habituation, the group featured 18 members under the leadership of Ruhondeza. The silverback encountered many misfortunes that led to decrease in the number of individuals in the group. The group has recently increased in its number to 9 members under the leadership of Kanyonyi. Mubare gorilla family is the most accessible family in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and it has become the most sought after group by most trekkers on safari in Uganda.

Bweza gorilla group

This is a splitter group from the Nshongi family in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. The group is led by silverback gorilla Bweza that split from the Nshongi gorilla group. Gorilla trekking has been taking place in this group for more than 2 years. This group comes with seven members with one silverback.

Habinyanja gorilla group

The Habinyanja family is located within Buhoma sector. The group derived its name from the word Nyanja that denotes a body of water referring to the swamp in Bwindi National Park. The family members are concentrated in the Northern side of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Habituation of this group began in 1997 and this was under the Mugurusi silverback whose name denotes old man. Mugurusi died afterwards and his leadership was succeeded by Rwansigazi and Mwirima. The two male gorillas ruled together and their leadership styles were different and the latter brought split in the group. To curb down any fight, the family decided to harmoniously break in 2002. The troop that remained with Rwansigazi up to date has the identity of Habinyanja while the other group members that chose Mwirima’s leadership style stayed back at the place known as Rushegura to make the current Rushegura family. This group features 18 members with 2 silverbacks and several juveniles. Tracking through this group takes about 3 to 8 hours and for visitors who wish to realize their dreams in this group they are advised to spend a night in lodges within the Buhoma region.

Bitukura gorilla group

Bitukura derived its name from the river where it was sighted at a time when it comprised of 24 members. This group can be tracked within Ruhija sector of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. The habituation process for the family started in July 2007 and stopped in October 2008 and this featured as the shortest habituation time compared to the complete 2 year for a normal habituation process. The family is not headed by the oldest silverback but by Ndahura the second youngest of 3 silverbacks in the family. This group comes with 14 members.

Busingye gorilla family

Busingye group derived its name from Busingye silverback, situated in Rushaga area of Bwindi National Park. The word Busingye means peace. The silverback gorilla Busingye is known for fighting and in 2012, he splitted off from the Kahungye group taking 7 members. He is known for grabbing other females from other gorilla family. The group comprises of 9 members.

Kahungye troop

Kahungye derived its name from Kahungye hill. The group can be tracked within Rushaga area. It was set for tourism in October 2011. It comprised of 27 individuals with 3 strongest silverback gorillas. But the disgruntled Busingye broke off with many members. The group is currently headed by Rwigi whose name denotes door. It is open for tracking throughout the year.

Kyaguriro group

This group is mainly set for research but when the rest of the groups are full, Kyaguriro can be visited for gorilla trekking by visitors. It was first habituated in 1999 and has since been put for research by the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology. The group features many regimes of silverback right from its first silverback Zeus who banished into the forest by Rukina where he finally passed on. He was succeeded by the next silverback Rukara who heads the 15 members. The group can be seen around the Northeastern border to the west of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park in Ruhijha sector.

Mishaya group

The Mishaya family derived its name from the first silverback Mishaya. Mishaya happened to be the first to set off the fight in the Nshongi group at a time and walked away with 10 members in July 2010. He acted like Bweza silverback and split off from Nshongi family within 2 years and formed his own group. He died in February 2014. The group now features 12 members that can be tracked in Rushaga region while on safari in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The group is headed by Mwiine silverback.

Nkuringo group

If you are looking for the most breathtaking gorilla adventures, then look not further than Nkuringo family. Hiking through the thick vegetation of Bwindi to look for this is strenuous but rewards visitors with amazing experiences of lifetime. The group derived its name from the Nkuringo sector itself which in Rukiga means round hill. Its habituation stopped in 2004 and Nkuringo passed on 4 years after. He left 2 sons; Rafiki. The group is credited for its playful baby twins of Muhozi and Katungi but unfortunately Katungi passed on afterwards. The group comprises of 19 members with 2 silverbacks.

Nshongi gorilla group

Nshongi gorilla family lies within the Rushaga area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and it is headed by Nshongi silverback gorilla. This family derived its name from adjacent stream known as Omushongi gwoboki which denotes honey. Nshongi group was set for tourism in September 2009 and it featured among the largest gorilla troops in Bwindi with 36 members. Splits started around July 2010 when Mishaya split off and took about 10 members to form its own group. And after 2 years, another silverback known as Bweza also went with some members to make its own group. The group is currently consists of 26 individuals. Tracking through this family comes with exceptional views of forest birds, primates and butterflies.

Oruzogo group

Oruzogo gorilla family was set for tracking on 20th June 2011. The group comprises of 23 members with their leader being Tibirikwata. The group has continued to thrive with newly born babies by Musi and Ntamurungi in 2011 and Kakoba’s twins in March 2012. The juveniles in the group have always kept the visitors entertained with their playful behavior. The Oruzogo group can be tracked in Ruhija area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.

The Rushegura gorilla group

The Rushegura troop is splitter group of Habinyanja family and it can be tracked in Buhoma region of Bwindi National Park. The group is headed by Mwirima silverback gorilla. Rushegura family derived its name from the two brothers that broke off to make their own groups. It is one of Bwindi’s most friendly gorilla families due to its calm and harmonious leader. The Rushegura group features 19 with one silverback. It began with 12 members including 5 females.

Nyakagezi gorilla family

The Nyakagezi group is the only habituated gorilla group in Mgahinga National Park and it comes with 10 members. It was known for its migratory behavior where it used to wander to the Virunga National Park and Volcanoes National Park. However, this group is currently settled within Mgahinga National Park. The Nyakagezi group is headed by Bugingo silverback. Bugingo silverback is father of several gorillas in the Nyakagezi troop. Currently, Mark heads the group that comes with 2 other silverbacks, his brother Mathew and Mafia, juveniles known Furaha and Nkanda, females known as Nyiramwiza and Nshuti as well as the 2 black backs of Ndungutse and Rukundo. Gorilla permits for this group can be obtained from Kisoro offices of Uganda Wildlife Authority.

In conclusion, Uganda features the highest number of gorilla families compared to the rest of gorilla destinations. While on gorilla safari, visitors are assigned to only one habituated gorilla family to track in a group of eight people. Note that the composition of gorilla families keeps changing and for any changes, you will be up dated. Each group offers a distinct experience and it worth visiting at least 2 families.