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Gorilla families in Rwanda

Mountain gorilla groups in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park: Gorilla families in Rwanda


There are a range of gorilla families that number to ten (10) that are habituated purposely for gorilla trekking safaris in Rwanda. There are also other two which are dedicated for research called Pablos Shida and Beetsme.

It can be noted though the home ranges of the habituated gorilla families dedicated for tourism are known; their movements are not very fixed to only those areas. When preparing for gorilla trekking encounter, it is important to note that gorilla families are distributed on the date of tracking and though you have possibilities of getting your preferred group by requesting the rangers to give it attention during allocation, the practice is not guaranteed.

The following are the ten (10) gorilla families that are available for tracking by world travellers on gorilla safaris in Rwanda and Volcanoes National Park in particular;

Susa -A Family

The Susa A gorilla family is noted to have originally been studied by Dian Fossey. It is named after Susa River which makes its way through this gorilla group’s home range. The Susa A has twenty eight (28) gorilla members with three (3) silverbacks. The family was the largest gorilla group with 42 members before it split to form Susa B and when one encountered initially, he / she would see the gorilla spread all over. Susa A us denoted by the playful Byishimo and Impano – the twins in the group. It also contains poppy who is one of the oldest habituated gorillas that dates back to the times of Dian Fossey.

Karisimbi Family (Susa-B Family)

The Karisimbi Gorilla Family is known to have separated from the Susa A gorilla family and it is now referred to as Susa B or the Karisimbi gorilla group. This gorilla family has fifteen (15) members and dwells on the slopes of Karisimbi Volcano. Thus, it is also ideal travellers interested in active hiking. The gorilla family at times moves up to the Karisimbi Caldera thus its trek m a take a full day. However, the tourism and Conservation trackers from the Rwanda Development Board always ascertain he location of this gorilla family on a day before to make its search easier for the next trackers.

Sabyinyo Gorilla Family

The Sabyinyo Gorilla Family is the easiest gorilla family to track and is led by the mighty Silverback Guhonda who is the largest of all the silverbacks in the ten gorilla families and as thus us known for her gigantic physical spread. The Silverback Guhonda has a close challenger and rival named Ryango. Though, Sabyinyo gorilla family has few members, it is also impressive to encounter. It contains eight (8) members given as one (1) silverback, three (3) adult female, one (1) non adult male, two (2) Juveniles and one (1) baby.

Amahoro Gorilla Family

Amahoro literally translated as peaceful has seventeen (17) members including one (1) Silverback, two (2) black backs, five (5) adult females, two (2) sub adult males, two (2) Juveniles and five (5) babies. The Silverback of the group is called Ubumwe and encountering it in a gorilla trekking safari in Rwanda involves a relative steep climb.

Group 13 ( aka Agashya Family)

At the time of habituation, the Agashya gorilla family had 13 members which made the background for its naming. Apparently, the Agashya gorilla family has twenty five (25) gorilla members including one (1) silverback, twelve (12) adult females, two (2) sub adult female, three (3) Juvenile and seven (Babies). Initially this gorilla family was headed by Nyakirima however after Agashya assessed his strength, he managed to take over from him following a fierce fight. Agasya then took all the members up the Volcano and Nyakirima made no attempts to follow them up. Agashya has since increased the members up to twenty five (25). Up to now, attack when Agashya smells trouble such as a rival silverback, he frees his members up to the top of the Volcano.

Kwitonda Family

Kwitona gorilla family contains eighteen (18) members and the name loosely translates as the humbe one. The gorilla group has two (2) silverbacks and one (1) black back. The Kwitonda is known to have migrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo and tends to range for extended distance which makes it at times difficult to trek.

Umubano Family

Umubano loosely translates to neighbourliness and this gorilla family has eleven (11) members including one (1) Silverback, one (1) sub adult male, three (3) three adult females and six (6) babies. The Umubano gorilla family broke off from Amahoro when Charles challenged the silverback Ubumwe taking some of the members to form a new group. Charles had matured enough and thus could not stand to the orders of Ubumwe, he resolved to stage fights and this went on for days, weeks and months after which he managed to secure some members and start an independent life. He has since then gained some respect from Ubumwe and though they meet, no fighting has been recorded.

Hirwa Family

Hirwa which loosely translates as the lucky one, the Hirwa gorilla family came into existence on June 17th 2006 when the trackers saw with their naked eyes the conglomeration of some members from two different gorilla families of Sabyinyo and Group 13 leading to the formation of a small gorilla group. Lucky it was, other gorillas kept in joining and now it stands with nine (9) members including one (1) silverback, three (3) adult females, two (2) sub adult females and three (3) babies.

Ugenda Family

The Ugenda loosely translates as being on the move. The Ugenda gorilla family has eleven (11) gorillas and two (2) silverbacks. Its naming is inspired by its frequent movements from one area to the other. As a result, it at times presents challenging hikes during the gorilla trekking safaris in Rwanda.

Bwenge Family

The Bwenge gorilla family comprises of eleven (11) members including a silverback. The Bwenge gorilla family mostly dwells on Mount Karisimbi slopes. The Silverback of the group is called Bwenge and his group came into existence in 2007 when he left his intial group and joined females from other gorilla families. The Bwenge gorilla family has triumphed through the hard times when it lost her six (6) young ones. However, with the two successful births, the gorilla family has tried to regain its strength. Bwenge gorilla family is among those gorilla families that present challenging hikes as it can stretch up to 600m altitude points which are at times muddy and slippery.

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