Virunga national park with mountain gorillas that are usually tracked on Congo gorilla safari tours is situated in Congo adjacent to Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and Mgahinga gorilla national park in Uganda. This is the oldest park in Africa and the only mountain gorilla trekking safari park in West Africa. Gorillas just like human beings live a social life, they have families and family hierarchy is followed. These families are also known as groups
Each family group is led by an older male gorilla known as the silverback. This is because of the silver fur that develops on their backs as they grow older. The silverback is responsible for family protection against all forms of danger and feeding.
Always witnessed on a Congo gorilla trekking tour, the silverback makes decisions on behalf of the entire gorilla family and will lead the family to their feeding and nesting points each single day. The gorillas’ nest in different locations each day. The female mountain gorillas take charge of the young/baby gorillas till they are at an age that they are able to take care of themselves.
The eight Gorilla Families for a Congo gorilla safari in Virunga National Park
A gorilla family has more than 5-30 members. Virunga national park has a total of 8 gorilla habituated families each with a specific family leader and these include;
Rugendo Gorilla Family
With nine (9) gorilla members, Rugendo family is the oldest gorilla family in Virunga. They were habituated in 1989, the gorilla numbers are few because the family split in to two. The group formerly had 8 members but made 9 members after grabbing a sub adult member of Mapuwa group in June 2016. They include 3 Silverbacks. The group was formerly led by Silverback Rugendo but currently led by silverback Bukima.
Humba Gorilla Family
Still in Bukima sector is a humble family group that many always wish to trek while on a gorilla safari in Congo. Humba Gorilla family has 16 members with two silverbacks. This family was formerly part of the Rugendo family till 1998 when Humba agreed with his father Rugendo to separate and form independent families. By the time Humba left, he went with 8 members including 3 babies, 1 black back, and four adult females. Senkwekwe who was also a leader in the family (a brother to Humba) was assassinated on 22nd July 2007 by unknown gun men.
Mapuwa Gorilla Family
The Mapuwa family lives in Jomba close to the Congo-Uganda border. It’s comprised of 22 members with 1 silverback under the leadership of Mapuwa. Before 1998, Mapuwa was part of the Rugendo family and since then he has fought to expand his family. When Mapuwa left, he took along 2 adult females named Jicho and Mafaze. The group members have increased by continued births and grabbing of gorillas from other groups. In 2002, one of the strongest and well-known Silverback in Virunga was stripped of all his members. Mvuyekure is the dominant Silverback in the group of recent.
Kabirizi Gorilla Family
Comprised of 34 members, Kabirizi gorilla family is headed by Kabirizi silverback. The family is found in Bukima sector close to Goma. The family was earlier named Ndugutse and later renamed after the death of the dominant silverback Ndugutse in 1997 during armed conflicts. Kabirizi took over leadership in 1998 after his habituation from the wild.
Lulengo Gorilla Family
Lulengo Family is comprised of 6 members living near Banagana close to the Congo-Uganda border. This is one of the humble gorilla families to track on a gorilla Congo safari. Initially, the family was named Maseruka and later renamed Lulengo to commemorate the technical director of Virunga national park who died in the collapse of a land mine. Lulengo was born in the Rugabo Family which was the first Mountain Gorilla family to be habituated in the Mikeno Sector but later split to form an independent family.
Munyaga Gorilla Family
Still in Bukima sector, Munyaga family has a total of 7 gorilla members with 2 silverbacks. The Munyaga family was the last gorilla group to be opened to trekkers in 2008. This family was then headed by Silverback Munyaga who disappeared from the group around 2004, giving silverback Mawazo a chance to take over the group. Gasore is known to be the leader as per now. The group is known for an adult female Bilali who gave birth to twins who later died at infancy after joining from Rugendo group. Kadogo, the bold headed silverback is also a member of the Munyaga family.
Nyakamwe Gorilla Family
The Nyakamwe gorilla family has 11 members. It is one of the newly habituated gorilla families in Virunga national park. The lead silverback of the group is Nyakamwe from which the group derives its name.
Bageni Gorilla Family
Being the currently largest gorilla family in Virunga national park, this is the best for a Congo gorilla trekking safari. The family comprises of 26 members and led by silverback Bageni. The group of recent has leadership struggles with silverback Kitagenda and Kanamaharagi fighting to take over leadership. The group could probably split in to two or three groups soon.
On a gorilla trekking safari in Congo, you don’t pre-determine which gorilla family to trek but try your luck and you could meet the most interesting gorillas of Virunga’s tropical jungle.