Gorillas in Rwanda
Situated in the far northwest of Rwanda is Volcanoes National Park, the only protected area in this green hilly republic with Mountain Gorillas. The steep slopes of this magnificent mountain range is home of the endangered mountain gorilla and a rich mosaic of montane ecosystems, which embrace evergreen and bamboo forest, open grassland, swamp and heath.
Visiting Gorillas in Volcanoes National park – Rwanda, commonly referred to as PNV is a life-changing experience. There are twelve gorilla families living in the Volcanoes National Park, which are fully habituated, with a few others habituated solely for scientific research. The groups, or troops, consist of at least one silverback along with several females and youngsters.
The habituated Gorillas families as of March 2022 are Susa, Igisha, Karisimbi, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, Agashya, Kwitonda, Umubano, Hirwa, Bwenge, Ugyenda and Muhoza.
Here is a detailed Rwanda Gorilla family composition as of January 2022. Gorilla family composition can change anytime due to new births, migration of family members, or worst case deaths.
In 2009, the Susa family started the splitting process which resulted into four separate families today: SUSA, KARISIMBI, ISIMBI and IGISHA.
Susa group is composed of 19 individuals (led by the dominant silverback Impuzamahanga) including 3 silverbacks, 5 adult females, 3 blackbacks, 2 sub-adults, 3 juveniles and 3 infants.
Karisimbi group was formed as a new group after splitting from Susa group in 2009. The separation process became permanent since August 20th, 2009, after two months of splitting attempts characterized by leaving some days and returning temporarily. Karisimbi is composed of 10 individuals including 6 Silverbacks, 1 Adult female, 1Blackback, 1 Sub adult female and 1 Juvenile.
Isimbi group is led by the Dominant Silverback-Muturengere. Isimbi group was formed as the result of Karisimbi group splitting which took place on 10th April 2012.
The group is currently composed of 16 individuals who include 1 silverback, 4 adult females, 4 sub adult females, 3 juveniles and 4 infants.
Igisha group is the latest family (formed November 30th 2014) of former Susa group members. It is led by Igisha as the dominant Silverback. Igisha group is currently composed of 35 individuals who include 1 Dominant silverback, 4 silverbacks, 10 adult females, 1 black back, 5 sub-adults, 6 juveniles and 8 infants.
The habituation of Amahoro family by gorilla trackers started in 1995 and became fully habituated in 2001-2002. Amahoro means “peace”. The name fits well as the Silverback is so peaceful and tolerant to other 3 young silverbacks, contributing to the unity of the family. Today, Amahoro group is made up of 21 individuals including 4 Silverbacks, 8 Adult females, 3 Sub-adults, 2 Black-backs, 5 Juveniles and 7 Infants.
Umubano group is a brother group of Amahoro, formed after the death of Amahoro dominant silverback in 2002.The group was renamed in 2005 “UMUBANO” meaning “togetherness” and “cooperation”. The name was proposed in recognition of cooperation and collaboration needed to ensure sustainable conservation of gorillas.
The people and countries should recognize that fact and set up long-lasting mechanisms for regional cooperation to ensure gorilla sustainable protection and conservation. Umubano group is composed of 14 individuals including 8 Silverbacks, 2 Adult females, 1 black-back, 2 sub adult and 1 infant.
This group is led by the silverback Gihishamwotsi, who officially took over from his father Guhonda after the later left the group in January 2020. The transfer of group dominance from the prolific silverback Guhonda to his son took more than 3 years, with the father increasing the distance from the center of the group slowly and step by step until he left with three gorillas, including his long-term female Gukunda. Sabyinyo group currently consists of 15 individuals including 2 silverbacks, 4 adult females, 2 black-backs, 2 sub adults 1 juvenile and 4 infants.
This group was habituated in 1980s as group 13. Agashya group is led by the dominant silverback Isano who took over this group in May 2021 from his father AGASHYA, who walked away after several months of ranging at the periphery of the group.
Currently, Agashya group is composed of 22 individuals; including 4 silverbacks, 5 adult females, 1 black-bacs, 3 sub-adults, 4 juveniles and 5 infants.
MARAMBO formed the group in September 2015 with 2 females he grabbed from Agashya family and one from Hirwa family. He continues to initiate interactions with other groups in order to get more females. The group is currently composed of 19 gorillas including 1 silverback, 8 adult females, 1 Sub adult, 2 juveniles and 7 infants.
Hirwa group was first located in the park on 25th June 2005 by a park guide while tracking Sabyinyo group, with 8 members. The group increased to the current number of 13 gorillas made of Silverback, 2 adult females, 2 black-backs, 4 sub adults, 1 juvenile and 3 infants.
Kwitonda has been in Rwanda since 2004, but was originally habituated and monitored in the DRC side. Since 2004, the group that the park initially thought was naturally crossing on Rwanda side for a short while has settled permanently.
In May 2021 Kwitonda group split into 2 sub-groups with Karevuro keeping 20 gorillas and Kigoma taking 20, an unusual peaceful splitting. Kwitonda family remained with 2 silverbacks, 8 adult females, 2 black-backs, 3 juveniles and 4 infants.
Kwisanga is the group formed by gorillas that split from Kwitonda family in May 2021
The group is led by Silberback Kigoma, but tensions with the subordinate and younger silverback Lisanga demonstrate a balanced share of leadership between the two males Kwisanga group is currently composed 18 gorillas including 3 silverbacks, 4 adult females, one black-back, 2 sub adults, 3 juveniles and 5 infants.