A New Gorilla Group in Kahuzi-Biega

Categories: Gorilla Journal, Journal no. 37, Gorilla Groups, Kahuzi-Biega, Grauer's Gorilla

The history of the "new gorilla group" in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park dates from 2004 when WCS conducted a survey of the area. During that year, the group was observed for the first time in the Mugaba tourism area. On a second occasion, it was observed by patrolling rangers in the areas of Madirhiri and Mugaba.

Group Composition
Due to the considerable size of the group, the then Conservateur Principal of the park, Bernard Iyomi, decided to monitor the group regularly, with responsibility for the supervision being given to the brave ranger Kaboyi Birhanenwa. He identified 17 group members, 1 silverback, 1 blackback, 12 adult females and 4 infants.
Why do we call this group "new"? Simply because it is the latest gorilla group to be discovered since the various wars devastated the region and killed and dispersed the long-standing gorilla groups. To date the group has not yet been given a name.
From 2005 to 2006, the group was under the supervision of the guide Munganga Mulengezi and its size did not change. From 2006 to date, the daily tracking of the group has been the charge of the guide, and head of team, Ntavuna Mishebere, who is a Pygmy and the son of the old tracker Mishebere who passed on the responsibility of team head to his son. Because his people believe in the value of nature, and in order to ensure that this new group remains protected, Ntayuna has promised that he will monitor it closely. And he has been doing just that, every day.
On April 22, 2008, we observed the group to split up into two groups. One male left with some other group members to form his own group.
Currently, there are 4 individuals in the old silverback's group, 2 adult females and 1 infant, in addition to the silverback himself. There are 13 individuals in the group of his son, which we are temporarily calling the "new group of the son". The son's group contains the silverback, 6 adult females, 3 juveniles and 3 infants.

What Can Be Observed in the Field?
The old silverback continues to keep the rest of his group together, while his son has just lost 5 females to his rival Madirhiri. After his loss to Madirhiri, we have observed him join the Mankoto group which, unexpectedly, has accepted him without any problem. This increased the number of individuals in the Mankoto group to 19, including 1 silverback, 3 blackbacks, 3 subadults and 12 adult females.
The presence of the "new group of the son" within the Mankoto group has had the effect of making the group more sensitive to the presence of people. Apart from being followed regularly by our trackers, the son has not yet habituated to the presence of humans and therefore causes the females of the Mankoto group to flee.

Future Outlook for these Groups

  • Currently, we can offer tourists visits to two gorilla groups and the single male Mugaruka. We need to think about how to habituate the "new group of the father" in order to reduce pressure on these two groups.
  • We need to approach well-meaning persons to find the funds for the organisation of a name-giving ceremony for the new group. 
  • We need to increase the number of trackers, which is very small at the moment.

Radar Birhashirwa Nishuli