Uganda currently has 11 habituated gorilla families for trekking while one is preserved for research. They include Habinyanja, Rushegura and Mubare in the Buhoma sector; Nkuringo, Bitukura and Oruzogo in Ruhija sector; and Mishaya, Nshongi and Kahungye in the southern sector, and recently the new groups called Busingye and Bweza also in the southern sector. Kyaguriro gorilla group located in Ruhija is for research. Mountain gorilla habituation takes about 2 – 3 years.
Details of the various gorilla groups in Bwindi
Mubare Gorilla Group:-
– Located in Buhoma sector
– Family size: 9 members including 1 silverback
Mubare gorilla is the oldest in Uganda. It is located in the Mubare hills, deep in Bwindi forest, and was fully habituated in 1993. Initially the group comprised of 12 family members led by the dominant silverback Ruhondeza. After a few years the group grew to 18 individuals. Unfortunately, due to fights with wild gorilla groups, the group lost some of its members
Habinyanja Gorilla Group
– Location: Buhoma
– Family size: 15 members including 2 silverbacks
– First visited by tourists in 1999
– It is named after a water body (swamp) called Nyanja.
– It is one of the most fascinating groups as it is very playful
– The most prominent of its members is the shrewd alpha female called Kisho.
Rushegura Gorilla family
– Located in Buhoma
– Family size: 18 members
– Formed in 2002 when one silverback from Habinyanja opted to break away. At first the group had 12 members including 5 females. The “Habinyanja B” group acquired a new name “Rushegura” after a common tree species in the area called “Ebishegura.” This group, at first, could cross forth and back between DR Congo and Uganda. The group is the most familiar in the area as most of the members attack the neighboring village gardens and the lodges.
The Bitukura Gorilla group
Located in Ruhija, the Bitukura gorilla family was named after a river where its members were first sighted. Habituation of this gorilla group began in July 2007. The habituation process took a short time since the members were always in frequent encounter with the UWA rangers. Normally habituation process of gorillas takes a minimum of 2 years. However it only took 15 months to have this group ready for visitation by tourists. Bitukura is a very peaceful group comprises of 12 members including 4 silverbacks and some interesting juveniles. They enjoy a common bond and most times they are sited holding meetings.
Gorilla families in Bwindi southern sector
The Nkuringo Gorilla family
The Nkuringo gorilla group has 19 members including 2 silverbacks. It is located in Nkuringo. The group was named after the Rukiga word for “round hill” – the nkuringo. It was launched in 2004. Members of this group used to destroy the neighboring gardens thus UWA had to act so fast to habituate them before they would face the wrath of the famers in this village. In this case, the revenue got out of visiting this group would benefit the neighboring communities and they would in turn be protected. The group lost its leader, the silverback, in 2008 leaving it under the leadership of 2 silverbacks. Again the group got new twin babies – Katungi and Muhozi. However after 18 months Katungi died owing to natural causes.
Nshongi Gorilla Group
– Located in Rushaga and named after River Nshongi
– Family size: 36 members including 5 silverbacks
– Launched in 2009, Nshongi group is the largest ever habituated. The group with 25 members is led by a young silverback called Nshongi which is quite unique.
BUSINGYE GORILLA GROUP
– located in Rushaga, Busingye gorilla family is the newest and just broke away from Kahungye. The group was opened to tourists in 2011
– Family size: 7 members including 1 silverback