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Rwanda Gorilla Families in Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla Families In Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

Below are the details of guerilla groups in Volcanoes National Park which yo can visit during your gorilla safaris in Rwanda

  1. Susa Gorilla Family (Susa A)

Susa gorilla family derives its name from Susa River which runs through the area where the group calls home. Susa Gorilla group is the best-known gorilla family of Volcanoes National Park since this is the one that Dian Fossey studied from 1967 until she was murdered in 1985.

Originally, this group was quite large comprising of about 42 members, but it split into two in 2008. The breakaway family was named the Karisimbi group (Susa B).

Today, the group consists of 28 members, including 3 silverbacks. A fascinating feature of this family is the presence of twins, named Byishimo and Impano.

Rwandan mountain gorilla mothers are known to abandon one of their twins because it is so difficult to care for two, but Nyabitondore chose to care for both babies despite their playful and boisterous nature.

  1. Karisimbi Gorilla Family (Susa B)

Karisimbi gorilla group formed after splitting from the original Susa Gorilla Family or Susa group in 2008.  It was originally known as Susa B and later named Karisimbi in 2010 at the gorilla naming ceremony – Kwita Izina.

Just like its name, this group resides on slopes of Mount Karisimbi. If you welcome the challenge of a tough hike, then you will enjoy tracking this group, which lives on the higher slopes of Mount Karisimbi in Volcanoes National Park at heights up to 4507 meters.

It could take you sometime to get there, as it often requires a full day of hiking to reach the family. Trackers usually locate the group a day before spirited gorilla-seeking vacationers set off on the trek, but you must be prepared for the possibility that they have moved too far away and it is not possible to track them.

The group currently has 16 members led by 1 silverback called Nyakangaga. Nyakangaga parted ways along with 13 members and moved far away to form their own family.

  1. Amahoro Gorilla Family

In Kinyarwanda, Amahoro means peace and therefore this group is known for its peaceful ways. It is under the leadership of a silverback called ‘Ubumwe’ which means ‘togetherness’.

Amahoro family lives on Mount Bisoke slopes and it can occasionally move up the hence, making it difficult to track them.

Silverback Ubumwe is known for his congenial nature, which led him to lose some of his members to another group called Umubano.

Amahoro gorilla group is currently comprised of 17 members including;

  • 1 Silverback (Ubumwe),
  • 2 blackbacks,
  • 5 juveniles,
  • 5 adult females and
  • 4 infants.

They are the safest to track as the as these primates hardly get emotional.

  1. Umubano Gorilla Group

Umubano Gorilla Family was once a part of the Amahoro gorilla group.  The group splited into two following a challenge to the head of the Amahoro group leader called Ubumwe, by a rival silverback named Charles.

Having matured into a Silverback of the same rank as Ubumwe, Charles refused to take orders from him and constantly fought Ubumwe for months.

Charles formed his own group named Umubano, the Kinyarwanda word for “living together”.

Umubano is currently composed of 13 members and you have a chance to meet them during your gorilla treks in Rwanda. These include;

  • 1 silverback,
  • 1 sub-adult,
  • 3 adult females, and
  • 6 babies
  1. Sabyinyo Gorilla Family

Sabyinyo Gorilla Group lives in the highlands between Mounts Sabinyo and Gahinga. It is such an impressive family that many visitors on Rwanda gorilla safaris wishes to visit.

As you will learn during your Rwanda gorilla trek, the dominant Silverback of group called Guhonda has taken forceful steps to remain the only alpha male in the family.

Within most gorilla families, when a male matures and becomes a silverback, he is often forced out of the family. Such was the fate of Ryango, a rival to Guhonda who was ousted and remains a lonely silverback.

At an enormous 220 kg, Guhonda is the largest of all the alpha males in the gorilla groups of Volcanoes National Park.

This giant silverback leads a group 16 gorillas. This group also does not go far from one of the luxury safari lodges in Volcanoes National Park called Sabinyo Silverback lodge.

Silverback Guhonda was born in 1971. He was around during the horrific Rwanda genocide of 1994. Not only is he the oldest silverback alive (that we know of), he is, purportedly, the largest.

In 2021, Guhonda will be 50 years old, which is impressive for mountain gorillas, whose average lifespan is between 40 and 50 years in the wild.

Perhaps he will exceed the lifespan of Ruhondeza, the first habituated mountain gorilla in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, who died of natural causes in 2012 and was more than 50 years old.

  1. Agashya Gorilla Group (Group 13)

Agashya has the most interesting history of any gorilla group in Volcanoes National Park. The family started with 13 members and it was formerly known as group 13. It was initially led by Silverback Nyakarima.

However, Nyakarima was defeated in a fierce fight against a challenger called Agashya which means ‘the news’. Agashya took his time to watch Nyakarima and assess his strengths before inciting him to fight.

Having defeated the alpha male, Agashya took over the entire group. He moved to the higher slopes of the mountain with his new family, deliberately making it challenging for the old alpha to follow and track them down.

In fact, he still uses this strategy whenever he senses the presence of another silverback that might challenge him.

Agashya has consolidated the group by incorporating lone gorillas and the family has grown from 13 to 20 members including;

  • 3 silverbacks
  • 9 blackbacks
  • 6 females,
  • 2 babies

It is interesting to note that this group resides on the same slopes of Volcanoes National Park as the Sabyinyo group, but as already note, its silverback is careful to avoid danger.

  1. Kwitonda Gorilla Family

Kwitonda Group lives on the lower slopes of Mount Muhabura and sometimes moves to the high elevations at times. The family was founded by a silverback Kwitonda which means ‘humble one’ who died in 2012.

Silverback Kwitonda crossed from Democratic Republic of Congo in 2013 due to pressure from other gorilla families in the area and move to form a group of own in a new area.

Kwitonda died at the age of 40 and his health started deteriorating due to pressure from young gorillas in the group.

Before his death, he allowed other male gorillas to mate with females of the family. It is believed that he knew he wasn’t strong enough to lead the family yet the group need to grow.

By allowing this, he strengthened the family bond. Akarevuro who was young in the leadership of Kwitonda has taken over the leadership of the family. This group is composed of 29 members including;

  • 2 silverbacks
  • 2 blackbacks
  • 10 adult females
  • 1 sub-adult male
  • 7 juveniles, and
  • 7 babies.
  1. Hirwa Gorilla Group

Hirwa Gorilla Family is currently led by silverback Munyinya. This gorilla group often crosses from Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda to Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

Hirwa was formed in 2006 when members of two families broke away from their groups to form a new one. Some of the members originally belonged to the Sabyinyo group, while others came from the Agashya group.

Since this family was created out of pure luck, their name translates to “lucky one.” The group lost its 4 members who died from a lightning strike on 3rd February 2020. Currently, the group has 11 members.

  1. Ugenda gorilla Family

The Ugenda translates as “on the move” or “mobile” in the local Kinyarwanda language. This group has the habit of often moving from one location to another.

They do not seem to prefer any particular territory, and this makes tracking them a bit time-consuming.

Ugenda gorilla group currently has 11 members including 2 silverbacks. They are likely to be found around Mount Bisoke.

  1. Bwenge Gorilla Family

Some members of the Bwenge Gorilla group featured in the “Gorillas in the Mist” movie about Dian Fossey.

This family derives its name from a Silverback known as ‘Bwenge’ a Kinyarwanda word for ‘wisdom’.

The Bwenge family is currently made up of 11 members together with a silverback and is majorly found between Mounts Karisimbi and Bisoke and had gone through hard times when it lost 6 young ones.

  1. Muhoza Gorilla Family

Muhoza Gorilla group was founded by Silverback Muhoza. Muhoza founded his group with 7 members on in December 2016.

He grabbed 2 adult females from the Hirwa group and the family is now composed of 14 members; 1 Silverback, 8 adult females and 5 infants.

  1. Igisha Gorilla Family

Igisha Gorilla Group originated from Susa B Group after separating in 2014. The group is currently led by Silverback Igisha.

The group is formerly known as Susa B family which was later named after the head silverback Igisha.

Today the group comprises of 26 members and is one of the largest groups in Volcanoes national park. This group is graded as a tough trek.

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