Gorilla families in Uganda
There are 10 gorilla families in Uganda; one family is dedicated to research purposes and the rest can be tracked. Kyaguriro family in Ruhija is reserved for research studies while the other nine families are tracked: Rushegura, Habinyanja, Mubare, Nkuringo, Bitukura, Oruzogo, Mishaya, Nshinji, Kahungye, and recently the new group called Busingye.
Mubare Gorilla Family
Buhoma Gorilla Family
Family size: 7 members including 1 silverback
This is the oldest habituated gorilla family in Uganda since 1993. The group was found in the Mubare hills, deep in Bwindi forest. This gorilla family lost some members due to violent encounters with other wild Gorillas.
Habinyanja Gorilla Family
Family size: 15 members including 2 silverbacks
The Habinyanja group was first visited by tourists in 1999. The name comes from “Nyanja” which is the local word for ‘body of water’. It refers to the swamp in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where the group was first seen. The group has two leading males often seen fighting for family leadership while the leading female ‘Kisho’ heads the females.
Rushegura Gorilla Family
Family size: 19 members including 1 silverback
Rushegura group came up in 2002, after one of the silverbacks from the Habinyanja group decided to break away. The group started with 12 members and quickly got a name related to a tree species abundant in the grazing territory of the group – “Ebishegura” tree. This group is known for being very calm and some times wanders in the gardens of the safari lodges in the park, it is among the easiest groups to track.
Bitukura Gorilla Family
Family size: 12 members including 4 silverbacks Location: Ruhija
Bitukura group was named after a river where it’s family members were first spoted, the habituation started in 2007 and was a relatively easy process as the gorillas were already used to the UWA rangers. Although the habituation process normally takes a minimum of two years, Bitukura group was already friendly to tourists within 15 months into habituation. Bitukura is a peaceful family including 4 silverbacks and some playful juveniles. They share a close bond and often have ‘group meetings’ or get-togethers.
Nkuringo Gorilla Family
Family size: 19 members including 2 silverbacks
The Nkuringo group was initiated in 2004. One of the most important reasons for their habituation wast their interference of life for the people in the local community; often destroying farmland and crops. By opening up the gorilla family for visitors, the community directly benefited from tourism and granted protection for the gorillas as well.
The family was led by the silverback Nkuringo that died in 2008, leaving behind 2 silverbacks in the group. In November 2008, the Nkuringo family expanded thanks to the special birth of a twin – Katungi and Muhozi – though Katungi unfortunately died at the age of 1.5 years.
Nshongi Gorilla Family
Family size: 36 members including 5 silverbacks
Nshongi is the largest group ever habituated and was officially launched in September 2009. It was named after the river Nshongi, close to the place where the gorilla family was first seen. Although most gorilla families usually consist of 25 members with one or two silverbacks, this family is a rare case. Another remarkable fact is that the group is led by Nshongi, who is not even the oldest silverback in the family.
Note: recently this gorilla group split into two: the Nshongi group of 26 gorillas and the newly formed Mhisaya group with 10 individuals.