Gorilla families at Virunga National Park
At Virunga National Park there are 6 habituated Gorilla families that are tracked by travelers on Gorilla Tour in DR Congo.
This group is led by silverback Kabirizi and is located in the Bukima sector close to Goma with thirty four gorillas and two silverbacks. It was habituated and opened for tracking 1998 and obtained its name from the director of ICCN who passed away after encountering a tragic accident that took his life too. Before then, the family was referred to as the Ndungutse gorilla group because it was led by silverback Ndungutse who was killed during the disputes between the revolutionaries of Rwanda and DRC in 1997.
Since 1998, this group is under the rule of a silverback called Humba who separated from Rugendo “the father” and a brother to silverback Senkwekwe who was assassinated on the 22nd July 2007 by mysterious people with firearms. It consists of sixteen gorillas with two silverbacks situated in the Bukima sector near Goma.
This group consisted of eighteen members including 2 silverbacks with Rugendo as the leader and this was habituated in 1989-1997. These two silverbacks i.e Humba and Rugendo later on separated and Rugendo was left with only eight members. Fortunately, the group increased in number as time passed due to the increased reproduction of juveniles in the group. For example, two infant gorillas were born into the group in 1999 by an adult female Gorilla called Safari whose infant was called Katembo. Neza another adult female also gave birth on 15th July 2001. Sadly, Rugendo was killed during the insurgencies that were happening between the military and interhamwe armed force on 1st. In 2007, four other Gorillas including Senkwekwe a successor to Rugendo were killed with three adult females ie Neza, Safari, and Mburanumwe.
The group is located in Jomba near Bunagana with fifteen members and a silverback called Mapuwa. Silverback Mapuwa was a son to Rugendo who choose to separate with his birth family to create his own with two adult females namely Mafaze and Jicho. He did not stop fighting with other groups so as to gain more females to expand the group for example, in 2002 he battled with Pili-Pili whom he left an introvert then went on and snatched three female gorillas who he added to his group thereby increasing birthrates hence expanding the number to fifteen gorilla members.
This group is under the rule of Silverback Lulengo with six gorilla members and is found in Jomba close to Bunagana. Silver back Lulengo’s birth family was Rugabo which was the initial habituated family in the Mikeno sector. Before, the group was named “Musekura” although the name was changed by park wardens to Lulengo so as to remember the official director of Virunga National Park who died after encountering a land mine. Unfortunately, his father Rugabo also passed away after being killed in 1994 during the Great lakes Refugee Crisis and left power to his sons ie Pili-Pili, Mareru, Lulengo-Black back and Nvuyekure a juvenile gorilla.
This is situated in Bukima near to Goma with seven gorillas and 2 silverbacks. It was the ultimate group to be discovered by the wardens in 2008.The group is led by Silverback Muyanga and an adult female called who relocated from the Rugendo gorilla group in 2004 with two infant gorillas that unfortunately died. After a while, Munyanga also vanished leaving power in the hands of another silverback called Mawazo who was residing with Buhanga till 1997. Later on, he joined Karatega who he left and went back to Buhanga around 1998. He then finally left and united with the Munyaga Gorilla Family.
How to Get to Virunga national Park
Virunga National Park is situated 32 km west of Goma (capital of North Kivu province) and reaching this place one has to travel with someone who has knowledge about the whole area. The roads are not in good shape so the visitor has to be cautious when travelling and driving. An appropriate way to get to the town of Goma flexibly is through Rwanda due to its well structured infrastructure especially roads.
From Kigali one takes only three hours to get to the DRC across the border and in only ten minutes he/she will have reached Goma. One can also go south west of Uganda to the Bunagana border where they can get a less costly visa that enables them to enter the DRC.