Uganda Gorilla Groups
Bwindi rainforest is a habitat for half of the world’s mountain gorillas about 400 individuals. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage in 1993.
Bwindi is managed by the Uganda Wildlife Authority which has habituated up to 20 gorilla families and Mgahinga National Park has 1 gorilla family These can be visited every day by tourists through gorilla tracking and gorilla habituation experience.
Gorilla tracking allows visitors to spend 1 hour with a gorilla family while habituation experience gives you 4 hours with gorillas. Bwindi is a large forest covering 331 sq km and is divided into four sectors, namely Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga, and Nkuringo each with a visitor center and gorilla families including the following.
Location: Buhoma Headquarters of Bwindi
Individuals: 12 gorillas
Mubare currently has 12 gorilla members led by one silverback. This gorilla family was the first to be habituated in 1993 in the Bwindi rainforest. Mubare is the most visited and as a result, it is a social gorilla family. Its home range is found on Mubare slopes near the Buhoma visitor center. Buhoma is at low altitudes of 1,100 meters; treks are less strenuous in this region, especially with gorillas.
Habinyanja Habinyanja is another gorilla family found in the Buhoma sector. It has 16 gorillas led by one silverback along with 2 black backs. The family feeds in a wide home range on top hills near a submerged swamp-like lake. There are also forest elephants in this area as evidenced by their fresh dung. Treks in search of this family tend to be strenuous due to steep slopes and when the elephants pass through trails to locate gorillas will be lost or confused. Hiking begins at the edge of the forest about 5km from the gorilla center.
Individuals: 17 gorillas
Rushegura is the largest gorilla family in the Buhoma sector with 17 gorillas. Its home range includes the forest around the visitor center and most times the gorillas feed nearby during the rainy season.
Kahungye is the largest gorilla family in Bwindi with 24 individuals including 3 silverbacks. It was fully habituated in 2011. This group is usually found in Nyabarema Hill about 6 km from the Rushaga visitor center. The area where Kahungye lives is characterized by steep ridges and thick vegetation. Visitors of more than 65 years are not recommended to track this group hence best suited for physically fit trekkers.
Individuals: 7 gorillas
The Nshongi gorilla family has 7 individuals. Trekking this gorilla family sometimes you walk along the river Nshongi which it was named after. Trekkers often see a lot of monkeys, birds, and butterflies.
Nshongi is the smallest family but was once large with 36 members that broke away into other two families of Bweza and Mishaya.
Individuals: 12 gorillas
Bweza family has 12 individual gorillas led by Bweza the silverback which broke away from the Nshongi gorilla family.
Individuals: 10 gorillas
The Busingye gorilla family has 10 individuals led by the silverback called Busingye which means peace. Busingye is a calm family that allows visitors to enjoy taking its photos.
Mucunguzi Gorilla Family
Size: 8 members.
Mucunguzi, meaning ‘savior’, was a silverback in the Bweza family. However, his ambition and drive led him to carve out his own group, leading to the formation of the Mucunguzi family. Despite being relatively new, they’ve become a point of interest for gorilla enthusiasts.
Individuals: 12 gorillas
The Mishaya gorilla family is located in Rushaga and has 12 individuals. It is led by the silverback called Mwine who took over control after the death of Mishaya the silverback that broke away from the Nshongi family and formed this group in 2010.
Location: Rushaga sector
Individuals: 16 gorillas
Bikingi is a new gorilla family of 16 individuals which are still under habituation in the Rushaga sector. This gorilla family is open for the habituation experience where visitors spend 4 hours with gorillas.
Rwigi Gorilla Family
Rwigi family’s inception stems from the Kahungye group’s divisions. Led by Rwigi, a silverback, this family has established its own identity within the Rushaga territory. Despite being one of the newer families, they’ve swiftly caught the attention of tourists and researchers alike.
Nkuringo Gorilla Family
Location: Found in the Nkuringo area of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Size: 11 members.
Composition: The group consists of various members including 2 blackbacks, 2 adult females, 2 subadults, 3 juveniles, and two infants. The name “Nkuringo” translates to “round hill” in the Rukiga language, referring to the hill where the group was first sighted. This family was the pioneer habituated gorilla group in the southern region of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The family faced a tragic event in 2020 with the death of their famous silverback, Rafiki, at the hands of wildlife poachers. The family’s future looked uncertain, but they managed to stabilize under the leadership of Rwamutwe, the dominant black back. Historically, the family often ventured into local communities, leading to the establishment of a buffer zone to reduce human-gorilla conflicts.
Bushaho Gorilla Family
Location: Found in the Nkuringo area.
Members: The family is composed of 8 members.
The formation of this family is attributed to the continuous dispersal of members from the Nkuringo Family. It was discovered that a silverback, formerly a member of the Nkuringo family, was leading this new group. This group was later named ‘Bushaho’ after the locality where the group forages most often.
The other groups in the Nkuringo Sector are the Christmas Gorilla Family and the Posho Gorilla Family (Under Habituation) but little information has been revealed about them
Members: 12 gorillas
Bitukura family has 12 individuals and was named after River Bitukura, a muddy river that flows through its habitat range. It was amongst the gorilla families that quickly got accustomed to humans within just 11/2 years of habituation. Karamuzi the silverback who had retired is leading their family again following the sudden of the young silverback Ndahura at the age of 28 who fell off a tree branch on 18th December 2016.
Members: 17 gorillas
Oruzogo family has 17 members including twins who were born in 2013. There are also infants who were born in December of 2017. Trekkers should expect strenuous hiking due to steep slopes though when you’re lucky the family can be found along the road.
Members: 11 gorillas
Kyaguriro has 11 individuals. This family lives in between steep hills and valleys in the Ruhija sector.
Nyakagezi Gorilla Group
Location: The group resides in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Size: Comprises 9 members.
The family consists of various members, but notably, it has a dominant silverback. Nyakagezi Gorilla Group is particularly known for its migratory behavior. This group frequently traverses across the borders of Uganda, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, since 2012, the family has shown a predilection for settling more permanently on the Ugandan side. In 2013, the group welcomed a new member, further expanding its size. The birth of the baby gorilla in May 2013 was a celebrated event. Given their history of migration across countries, permits for this group are usually reserved for on-the-spot booking. It’s challenging to predict their exact location, making it a unique group for adventurous trekkers. Tourists interested in tracking this group can obtain permits at the local Uganda Wildlife Authority offices located in the Mgahinga Gorilla Park.