Exploring gorilla families in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park


Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwest Uganda is home to more than half of the global population of mountain gorillas. The park protects several gorilla groups that have been habituated which means that they have been made used to the presence of humans. Subsequently, hundreds of travelers from across the globe visit Bwindi throughout the year to trek these endangered primates through the famous gorilla safaris.

Bwindi has got over 15 habituated gorilla families within its forests and because of this, there is almost 100% chance for every group of trekkers to meet their assigned gorilla group and interact with these gentle giants who also share about 98% of the human DNA.

Today let’s explore some key facts about some of the gorilla families living in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park including their the group name, how they were named and some history of the groups.

1 Nkuringo group

The group was named after a small round hill called Nkuringo. The name is in Rufumbira language from the Bafumbira tribe who live near the park. “Nkuringo” literally means a round top of a mountain.

2 Mishaya group

This group separated from another gorilla group known as Nshongi and it was named after the leading silverback Mishaya who led the group after its breakaway. The silverback had long jaws which locally known as “Emishaya” hence from where he got his name.

3 Christmas group

The group separated from Nkuringo group and got its name from leading silverback Christmas. He was born 25 December 1999 in Nyamabuye village hence the name Christmas.

4 Bitukura group

Bitukura group got its name from the stream down Ruhija, one of the four gorilla trekking sectors in Bwindi. The stream is called Biizibitukura which means red water. The stream has red water which would change the color of posho when used for cooking by rangers on overnight patrols. This is where the group was first located hence being named after this stream.

5 Oruzoogo group

Oruzoogo group got its name from the area where it was first located by the first day of habituation. The place is called Mukazoogo and the word Ekizoogo is one of the shrubs that dominate the area.

6 Muyambi group

The group separated from one of the gorilla groups in Ruhija. The name Muyambi means a helper. The group came when it was most needed to reduce the congestion in gorilla permits bookings. This group solved the problem of over booking since there were few groups hence the name Muyambi.

These and more are some of the habituated gorilla groups in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park that are visited by travelers on a daily basis for the incredible gorilla trekking experience. Gorilla trekking has been described by one of the best wildlife experiences in the world by some of past trekkers who have come face to face with these breathtaking great apes.

Currently, there are about 1,063 mountain gorillas in the wild with the other population living in the 3 protected parks of the Virunga Massif which straddle the borders of 3 neighboring countries. These include Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park in DR Congo and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.

Unlike majority of other gorilla subspecies, mountain gorillas have been increasing in number steadily since 1960s when American primatologist Dian Fossey kicked off their conservation work in the Montane forests of Rwanda. Her great conservation efforts to protect gorillas were carried on even after her death in 1985 thanks to stakeholders like governments and conservation organizations like the Dian Fossey Fund in Rwanda and DR Congo.

The enhanced conservation efforts have seen gorillas rise to become a major component in the tourism sectors of the 3 countries with gorilla trekking becoming the biggest contributor of tourism revenue in all the 3 countries.

However, despite the big step forward taken in protecting gorillas, they still face life-threatening challenges which keep undermining their welfare in their natural habitats. These include poaching where gorillas are killed for meat and trophies while some get caught and injured by snares laid by poachers to catch small animals like antelopes. Others include habitat loss to human activities like encroachment, farming, land degradation, and forest destruction.

Governments through wildlife agencies and conservation organizations are trying had to protect gorillas to ensure that they keep thriving in their natural habitat through programs like patrols and sensitization though the above challenges are yet to be eliminated completely.