It’s on world record that gorilla trekking in Africa attracts the largest number of tourists to the continent. Unfortunately, only three countries of Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo host these amazing mighty features. In Uganda, gorilla trekking is done in Bwindi impenetrable forest national park and Mgahinga national park, Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Virunga national park in DR Congo.
Gorilla tourism has not been so much embraced in DR Congo because of the insecurities in the country, yet Virunga national park is Africa’s oldest park. It is located in the Virunga massif and offers some of the best gorilla trekking experiences in Africa. Despite Virunga’s enormous size, it harbors only eight habituated gorilla families which can be trekked all year round. These include: Humba, Rugendo, Kabirizi, Munyaga, Nyakamwe, Mapuwa, Bageni and Lulengo.
Each of these families presents its own peculiar story and uniqueness. However, it is vital to know that the family composition and dynamics like number of individuals in a family, group leadership, composition of the family, etc. may change from time to time.
Munyaga gorilla family
Made up of nine members, Munyaga is found in Bukima area of Virunga National park. The group got its name from its former dominant silverback Munyaga who abandoned the group in 2007 after he lost all his females to Kabirizi group. Mawazo took over the leadership till today. Currently the group has 9 members with 3 silverbacks, 2 adult females, 2 juveniles and 2 babies.
Lulengo gorilla family
Found in Jomba region of the park, Lulengo was initially known as Rugabo. Rugabo’s habituation started in 1985 with Rugabo as the head before he was brutally shot dead with two other female gorillas in 1994. Rugabo’s son Lulengo took over the leadership till now with 12 members. However, some members transferred to Mapuwa gorilla family and currently Lulengo leads 9 members including 1 silverback, 3 adult females, 1 black back, 1 juvenile and 3 babies.
Rugendo gorilla family
This was among the first groups to be habituated in Virunga national park. At the time of its habituation, the group was led by Rugendo a renowned father of many Silverbacks in the park. Unluckily, Rugendo was killed by rebels in 2001 and his son Senkwekwe took over the leadership till 2007 when he was also killed with five other gorillas by unknown people.
In 2008, a solitary silverback Bukima took over the leadership till date. Rugendo group has nine members, 3 silverbacks, 1 black back, 1 adult female, 2 juveniles and 2 babies. It lives around Mikeno sector, between Bukima and Bikenge areas.
This group lives in Jomba region of Virunga national park and was formed in 1998 by Mapuwa silverback, a son to the silverback Rugendo. Mapuwa quit Rugendo family to live a solitary life, but in 1998, Mapuwa interacted with Lulengo family and snatched two female adults to form his own family. Currently, Mapuwa family has 22 members with 3 silverbacks, 5 black backs, 6 adult females, 6 juveniles and 5 babies.
Kabirizi gorilla group
This group was formed in 1994 and has an interesting leadership history. Currently, silverback Kabirizi heads the group of 19 members with 2 silverbacks, 2 blackbacks, 4 adult females, 7 juveniles and 4 babies. This group lives in Bukima region of Virunga national park. It’s an interesting group to trek while on a gorilla safari in DR Congo.
Humba gorilla family
This group was formed in 1998, splitting from Rugendo family. Rugendo’s son Humba broke away from the family with 6 individuals. By 2014, Humba had increased to 16 individuals, but the group split that left Humba with just 6 members again. Currently, this family has 10 individuals with 3 silverbacks, 2 adult females, 3 juveniles and 2 babies. It lives in Gatovu and Bikenge areas of Virunga national park.
Bageni gorilla group
This group has the highest number of members, it lives in Bukima and Gatovu with 26 individual members. Silverback Bageni heads the family of 1 silverback, 2 blackbacks, 10 adult females, 4 juveniles and 9 babies. This group split from the father’s group Kabirizi, moving away with 20 members including his mother Mapendo and brothers to form Bageni gorilla family.
Nyakamwe gorilla family
With just 11 members, this amazing group is led by Nyakamwe, living in Bukima area of Virunga national park. The group was formed in 2014 following the split from Humba group. Silverback Nyakamwe had internal conflicts with the brother Humba and left the group with 10 individuals in 2014. Today this family has 11 members including 2 silverbacks, 1 blackback, 3 adult females, 3 juveniles and 2 babies.
Whichever gorilla family trekked in Virunga national park, the experience is equally thrilling. All gorilla families are amazing features to visit and spend time with.