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The London Primate, Mammal, Wildlife Safari Group Pages

Uganda and Rwanda Gorilla Groups (written by Craig Kaufman)

There are approximately 790 mountain gorillas living in the wild distributed between 3 countries, Uganda, Rwanda, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Of these 790 individuals, approximately 480 live in the 447km2 Virunga Volcanoes Massif Volcanoes NP (Rwanda), Virunga NP (DRC), and Mgahinga Gorilla NP (Uganda), while approximately 310 mountain gorillas live in Uganda’s 331km2 Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

In Uganda, there are currently 8 habituated gorilla groups that are trackable by tourists. Though, it must be stressed that the eighth gorilla group in Uganda, the Nyakagezi Group based in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, is currently not bookable at Uganda Wildlife Authorities as the family have a very large range. They spend their time crossing over into Rwanda and back into Uganda. These permits are normally sold the day before tracking at the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park Headquarters. Therefore, we do not recommend this family for reliable sightings.

During 2009, however, the Uganda Wildlife Authority started to habituate 2 additional gorilla groups in Bwindi: the Kahunje (Kahungye) Group (Nkuringo & Rushaga) and the Oruzogo Group (west of Ruhija). It is hoped that these 2 gorilla groups will increase the number of available gorilla permits.
In Rwanda, there are currently officially 7 habituated gorilla groups that tourists are able to track. Although, it is hoped that the recently ‘new’ Karisimbi Group, split from the Susa Group, will be opened up for tracking increasing the total number of gorilla permits available.

There are 36 different gorilla groups in the Virunga Volcanoes Massif. Of the 480 Virunga Volcanoes Massif gorillas 352 (73%) are habituated (349 in groups; 3 solitary males), while 128 are un-habituated (117 in groups; 11 solitary males). With the addition of the 2 newly habituated Bwindi gorilla groups approximately 50% of the Bwindi gorillas will be habituated throughout the 28 Bwindi gorilla families.

Uganda’s 8 Habituated Gorilla Groups that are tracked by tourists:

Mubare Group
Family size: 6 members (incl. 1 Silverback)
Location: Buhoma

Habinyanja Group
Family size: 20 members (incl. 2 Silverbacks)
Location: Buhoma

Rushegura Group
Family size: 20 members (incl. 1 Silverback)
Location: Buhoma

Bitukura Group
Family size: 13 members (incl. 4 Silverbacks)
Location: Ruhija

Nkuringo Group
Family size: 18 members (incl. 2 Silverbacks)
Location: Nkuringo

Nshongi Group
Family size: 25 members (incl. 2 Silverbacks)
Location: Nshongi/Rushaga

Mishaya Group
Family size: 12 members (incl. 1 Silverback)
Location: Nshongi/Rushaga
From the main headquarters in Rushaga, clients will often set off on foot or take a 30min drive to the trailhead. The Silverback Mishaya left the Nshongi Group with 9 others in July 2010 to establish the Mishaya Group.

Nyakagezi Group
Family size: 9 members (incl. 3 Silverbacks)
Location: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Rwanda’s 8 Habituated Gorilla Groups that are tracked by tourists:

Susa-A Group
Family size: 28 members (3 Silverback)
The Susa Group was famously studied by Dian Fossey and was the largest gorilla group consisting of young twins named Byishimo & Impano. The group was named after the Susa River which lies within their home range. The group, however, have now split into 2 separate groups, the Susa-A Group and the Karisimbi Group (Susa-B Group). The Susa-A is now usually found relatively low down in the forest.

Karisimbi Group (Susa-B)
Family size: 15 members
The Karisimbi Group is better suited to visits from more serious hikers. It appears that they have established their home range high up on the slopes of the Karisimbi caldera. Thus, a visit to this group may well end up as a full-days trek.

Sabyinyo Group
Family size: 12 members (incl. 1 Silverback)
The Sabyinyo Group are usually found relatively close to the edge of the forest (about 20-40mins) in the gentle slopes between Mt. Sabyinyo & Mt. Gahinga, and thus are normally easily accessible. The family is led by the powerful Silverback Guhonda. Guhonda has kept his main challenger, Ryango, out of his group as a lonely Silverback.

Agashya Group (formally known as Group 13)
Family size: 26 members (incl. 1 Silverback)
Group 13 was the first habituated group. The group has expanded in number from the initial 13 members to 25 individuals. The Silverback of Agashya Group is particularly relaxed.

Amahoro Group
Family size: 17 members (incl. 1 Silverback)
The Amahoro ‘peaceful’ Group is a tranquil family led by Ubumwe. The Amahoro Group, is the most peaceful of all the gorilla groups. However, peace comes at a price. Ubumwe, the group’s Silverback is so peaceful and calm; he has lost group members to Charles in the Umubano group. The trek to see the Amahoro group can be challenging up fairly steep terrain.

Umubano Group
Family size: 12 members (incl. 1 Silverback)
Meaning ‘neighbourliness’, the Umubano group was formed by members of the Amahoro family led by Charles, now the dominant Silverback. Charles, fed-up of being given orders by Ubumwe, of similar rank, challenged Ubumwe for leadership. Finally, Charles formed his own group snatching a number of females from the Amahoro Group. Since then, Charles has commanded respect and recognition from Ubumwe.
Both the Amahoro and the Umubano Group’s usually live between the Karisoke & Visoke peaks. Both are usually further from the park headquarters than the Sabyinyo and Agashya Groups, but easier to reach than Susa-A and the Karisimbi (Susa-B) Group.

Hirwa Group
Family size: 12 members (incl. 1 Silverback – from the Susa Group)
Meaning ‘lucky one’, Hirwa is a relatively new group that emerged in June 2006, formed from 2 different families, the former Group 13 (now Agashya Group) and Sabyinyo Group. Despite being recently formed, Hirwa exhibits strength and holds its own amongst all the other established groups.

Kwitonda Group
Family size: 20 members (incl. 2 Silverbacks)
The Kwitonda Group were habituated in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2005 the group crossed the border into Rwanda and have since remained there. The Kwitonda family is named after the dominant Silverback of this group and it means the ‘humble one’.

Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
About The London Primate, Mammal, Wildlife Safari Group October 18, 2011 12:49 AM Craig K.

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