Much as there are 20 habituated gorilla groups in Uganda including 19 habituated in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and one in Mgahinga national park, little is said or known about the Kyaguriro research gorilla group in the Ruhija sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
This is one of the incredible gorilla groups, an attraction of its own that was habituated in 1999. Because it was reserved for research purposes by Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology, it is never tracked by tourists. It is for this reason that this group became an experiment for research for all the habituated Mountain gorilla groups discovered to be less than 500 individuals within this Ancient Forest. With the research conducted on these mountain gorillas, the findings have helped greatly in the Conservation/protection of these critically endangered mountain gorillas.
Kyaguriro gorilla family together with the Bitukura and Oruzogo family are the three habituated gorilla families found within the Ruhija sector/region of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. With only two of these gorilla groups available for tourism, only 16 gorilla permits are sold per day for this sector.
The Kyaguriro group was habituated in 1999 as a group dedicated to research. By closely keeping contact with this group a lot has been learnt about the mountain gorillas of Bwindi.
During habituation and shortly thereafter this family was under the leadership of an aging silverback called Zeus – yes, named after the Greek god – this was because he was ‘lord and master’ over all the gorillas in his family. That state of affairs didn’t persist for too long as his position was usurped by a rival, and he was banished into the forest. He died in exile. The fate of ousted despots (and even benign rulers) seems to be the same for man and beast alike). That said, mysteries abound in this family (and will most probably remain thus). For example, what claim does Rukina – the current dominant silverback – have as head of the family, seeing as he was no son of Zeus? Will he get a bitter taste of his own medicine, administered to him by Marembo? Where did the adult female Tindamanyere come from and why did the young female gorilla Twigukye, leave her family at such a tender age to join Rukina’s troop?
Friend them and feast on gorilla machinations galore, the kind that have hounded man and beast alike since the days of Cain and Abel.
History of the Gorilla Family
At the time the Kyaguriro group was habituated in 1999, Zeus was the dominant Silverback. This Silverback was named after a Greek god because he was considered to be untouchable, the Lord and Master of the Kyaguriro group. However, his status as Master and Lord was short lived when he was overthrown.
Rukina’s reign or leadership of the group ended in August 2004 when he was overthrown by Silverback Rukina (whose name means “playful” in Rukiga because of his playful nature as an infant). Just like all other Silverbacks who die in Exile after being overthrown, this was Zeus’ fate. Silverback Rukina who was born at around 1984 reigned up to April 6th 2015 when he died at 31 years of age.
The Silverback Rukina became one of the most popular silverbacks because during his reign (where he ruled for over 11 years), the group lived in harmony and grew steadily up to the largest size of 21 members including 2 adult females. Interestingly, Rukina was among the funniest and iconic mountain gorillas that fascinated tourists on Ugandan safaris when this group was once opened for tracking by tourists. It is believed that Rukina sired his first offspring in 2002, and has fathered over 10 infants throughout his lifetime and was a very caring Silverback to the infants and females alike. During Rukina’s 10 year term as the leader of Kyaguriro group, he was adored by the members of the group and even lured at least 4 adult females into the group.
Following the death of Silverback Rukina, leadership of the Kyaguriro gorilla group was taken over by Silverback Rukara but this group has since been characterized by drama and conflicts within the group and funnily even Silverback Mukiza attempted to overthrow the dominant silverback to snatch some of the group members to begin a new gorilla group/family but his plans were not successful. Another fight happened in 2016 when Silverback Mukiza grabbed 10 of the gorilla members and formed his own group, which inhabits an area closer to the original Kyaguriro group. The split group is being monitored by Uganda Wildlife Authority ranger to ascertain if their separation is permanent.
In conclusion, the Kyaguriro group is one of the three habituated mountain gorilla groups in Ruhija sector, but is never visited for tracking but has contributed to the study of the ecological and social behavior of Mountain gorillas within Bwindi Impenetrable National Park because of the focus of research on the gorilla group by the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology from 1998. Kyaguriro group has also promoted the plight of these critically endangered mountain gorillas around the globe when they were filmed in several documentaries.