The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) announced the opening of new gorilla families for tracking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. This development marks a significant leap forward in gorilla conservation and provides more opportunities for tourists to experience one of the world’s most awe-inspiring wildlife encounters.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority shared this update on January 17, 2024, through a formal communication addressed to tour operators and tourism stakeholders. This underscores the importance of this breakthrough in the world of wildlife tourism and conservation.
The addition of these new gorilla families is the result of a dedicated four-year habituation process led by UWA’s committed team. Their steadfast commitment to conservation and sustainable tourism has been instrumental in making this initiative a success. This accomplishment not only enhances Uganda’s wildlife offerings but also signifies a positive impact on the preservation of mountain gorillas.
The newly opened families are located in different sectors of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for instance, Buhoma Sector has Binyindo and Muyambi, Rushaga Sector has Rwigi and Tindatine and Nkuringo Sector has Posho. This marks a total of five new gorilla families introduced in Bwindi Impenetrable national park
With these additions, UWA now offers a total of 194 normal gorilla trekking permits and four gorilla habituation experience permits per day in 24 gorilla families which increased from 19. This provides visitors with a unique and enriching experience, allowing them to observe the fascinating behaviors of gorillas in their natural habitat.
History of the new gorilla families
The Muyambi gorilla family consists of 8 members and is led by a silverback called Muyambi who was once a member of the Mubare family. This family was formed in 2019 after splitting with the Mubare and the first trekking was done in the same year as it was expecting its newborn infant. The Bunyindo family is led by a silverback called Bunyindo.
The Posho gorilla group is found in the Nkuringo sector consisting of 14 members and is led by Magara silverback. The family is still undergoing the habituation process however it is open for trekking. This has made the sector to have four gorilla families.
The Tindatine gorilla family is one of the groups that split from the Nshongi gorilla family that was inhabited in 2006 with 32 members. The Rwigi gorilla family broke off from Kahuge and was named after the silverback called Rwigi. Rwigi had misunderstandings with Kahuge and both fought. Some members that believed in him left and formed a group of 10 members including one silverback, two juveniles, five females and two babies.
Other gorilla families in Uganda
The sector is located in Bwindi Impenetrable National park and It is home to two gorilla families namely Bitukura, Kyaguriro and Oruzogo.
The Bitukura gorilla family
Located near the scenic River Bitukura, the group has fourteen individuals including four silverbacks. This family opened in October 2008,15 months after the initiation of the habituation process in July 2007. The Bitukura is connected to the Kyaguriro family, this connection facilitated frequent encounters with Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers, thus fastening the habituation process.
Originally the Bitukura family comprised 24 members but it has experienced reduction over the years and now they are 14 members. The group is led by the dominant silverback, Ndahura, who assumed leadership from the retiring Karamuzi after nearly four decades of service. Despite being the second youngest, Ndahura holds the mantle of leadership and in 2013, the family received a newborn which is carefully guarded by the leader.
The Oruzogo gorilla family
The Family is led by silverback Tibirikwata and it is a group of twenty-five individuals, including two silverbacks. It was opened in 2011, this family has increased over the years due to several births within its ranks. Noteworthy among these births are Ntamurungi’s delivery in June 2011 and Musi’s addition in October of the same year. Another band of joy occurred in March 2012 when Kakoba, an adult female that gave birth to twins,brought tremendous joy within the gorilla family.
The Kyaguriro gorilla family
It is a group of fifteen individuals, including two silverbacks. Despite completing the habituation process, this family is yet to open its doors to tourism. Nonetheless, dedicated conservationists maintain close contact, keenly observing and studying the fascinating dynamics within.
Previously the family was under the leadership of the dominant silverback Zeus however, a contender gorilla named Rukina launched an attack on Zeus and was forced into exile. Tragically, Zeus eventually succumbed to the challenges of exile, marking the end of his storied reign.
Although the Kyaguriro family is not accessible to tourists, researchers and scientists diligently monitor the family, unraveling the complexities of their social structure and behaviors.
Located in Bwindi Forest, a home for several gorilla families including Nshongi, Mishaya, Kahungye, Bweza, and Busingye.
Nshongi Gorilla Family
This group is composed of twenty-six individuals with four impressive silverbacks, and resides near the Nshongi River. It was opened for tracking in September 2009, initially the family had thirty-six members, making it Uganda’s largest habituated gorilla group at the time. The family harmoniously coexisted, with three silverbacks and seven blackbacks sharing leadership responsibilities. In July 2010, the group split into two, with silverback Mishaya leading a group of 10 members. The remaining group of 26 individuals, with four silverbacks, continues to thrive.
Mishaya Gorilla Family
Following the split from the Nshongi group in July 2010, the Mishaya Gorilla Family, now consisting of twelve individuals with one silverback, led an adventurous journey. Mishaya’s spirited character led to encounters with various gorilla families. Unfortunately, in April 2011, a confrontation with a non-habituated wild gorilla family resulted in injuries to Mishaya’s group, including a two-year-old infant. However, the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project veterinarians secured the lives of both the injured gorillas and the infant recovered well.
Kahungye Gorilla Family
One of the more recently habituated families in Bwindi, the Kahungye Gorilla Family, comprises thirteen individuals, including three silverbacks. Opened for tracking in October 2011, the family later split to form the Busingye Gorilla Family. Dominant silverback Rwigi, whose name means ‘door,’ leads this active group with enthusiasm and charisma.
Bweza Gorilla Family
The family was under the Nshongi group, then the largest habituated group in Bwindi National Park, opened for tourism. However, in July 2010, silverback Mishaya left to form his own group the Mishaya Gorilla Family. Two years later, silverback Bweza splitted and decided to take on his own journey, creating the Bweza Gorilla Family. In December 2012, this new family, consisting of nine individuals with one silverback, was opened to be tracked.
Busingye Gorilla Family
In June 2012, silverback Busingye broke away from the Kahungye Gorilla Family to establish his own group. Despite the name ‘peace,’ Busingye, in contrast, has displayed many fights so as to defend his family. He has fought off attacks from wild gorilla groups, securing the safety of females and integrating them into his own gorilla family.
Gorilla families in Buhoma sector
Located in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, is home to five gorilla families Mubare, Habinyanja, and Rushegura.
Mubare Gorilla Family
Established for tracking in 1993 and it’s the oldest habituated gorilla family in Uganda has 9 individuals with one silverback. Originally the group had 18 members led by silverback Ruhondeza. Over time, due to various factors, the group was reduced to only 5 members by 2012. Ruhondeza’s leadership was challenged in 2012, leading to his eventual retreat and passing in 2020. Known for his gentle yet lazy demeanor, he was over 50 years old.
Habinyanja Gorilla family
Opened for tracking in 1999 and the habituation process began in 1997. The group is located in Buhoma Kahororo- Rubina and has 17 members with 2 silverbacks. Initially led by silverback Mugurisi, the group split peacefully into Habinyanja and Rushegura when Mugurisi passed away. Currently led by silverback Makara, the group faced tragedy in 2011 when a blackback named Mizano was killed by poachers, marking the first such incident since 1995.
Rushegura Gorilla Family
The group separated from the larger Habinyanja family in 2002 at Rushegura and has 19 individuals with one silverback. Originally led by silverback Mwirima, the family faced attacks from wild gorilla groups, eventually settling in Bwindi National Park. The group is known for its calm nature and they have peacefully coexisted with the nearby village
Nkuringo Gorilla Family
Located in the Nkuringo sector, the group has 19 members with 2 silverbacks. The name “Nkuringo” in the local Rukiga language translates to a ’round hill,’ where this group was initially spotted. The family had a tendency to venture into nearby village communities, causing concerns as they consumed crops like sweet potatoes and bananas. During habituation, the group was led by the old and weary silverback Nkuringo, who passed away in April 2008. Leadership then shifted to his son, Safari. An adult female, Kwitonda, later gave birth to twins, Muhozi and Katungi. Unfortunately, Katungi succumbed to illness at one-and-a-half years.
Mgahinga National Park
The park is home to the Nyakagezi Gorilla Family, the only habituated family within the park. The group has 10 individuals with 3 silverbacks under the leadership of the dominant silverback, Mark .
Mark, the ruling silverback, is known for his frequent movements. In the past, the family would cross borders between Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda. However, since November 2012, the group has remained within the Ugandan border. In May 2013, the family welcomed a newborn baby, adding to its number.
Due to the family’s historical mobility, Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) decided, from November 2012, to issue gorilla trekking permits for visiting this family exclusively at the UWA headquarters within Mgahinga National Park. This decision ensures effective management and allows visitors to experience the presence of the Nyakagezi Gorilla Family within the borders of Uganda.
Booking Information for gorilla families
In light of this exciting development, it’s crucial for tourists and tour operators to note that UWA will no longer allow requests for extra permits, even during peak seasons. Starting from July 1, 2024, gorilla permits will cost $800 for all foreign tourists and increase from $600 to $700 for foreign residents of East Africa. For East Africans from UGX 250000 to UGX 300000 and the rest of Africa $ 500. This is an opportunity for tourists to be part of a remarkable wildlife experience while contributing to ongoing conservation efforts. Each gorilla trekking permit purchased plays a crucial role in supporting these efforts and ensuring the survival of mountain gorillas for future generations.