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Nshongi Gorilla Family
Family size: 36 members including 5 silverbacks
Location: Rushaga
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 exception. Another remarkable fact is that the group is led by Nshongi, who is not even the oldest silverback in the family.

Note:  This gorilla group split into two: the Nshongi group of 26 gorillas and the newly formed Mishaya group with 10 individuals

The Nshongi Family features as the biggest gorilla troop having reached a size of 36 members. After the split of Mishaya, the group reduced to 26 members and later still disintegrated. Today there are 19 individuals.

The group was officially visited by tourists on a gorilla safari in September 2009.

It derives its name from River Nshongi where the group was found. The group is headed by Nshongi who is not the oldest silverbacks in the group and that the three silverbacks and 7 black backs live peacefully with one another.

In July 2010, the troop broke and remained 26 individuals with the other split making the current Mishaya family.

In 2013 the group further broke and reduced to 18 with the new split creating the current Bweza group with 10 individuals. Besides mountain gorillas, there are also other apes, birds and butterflies for you to catch a glimpse while on safari in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

Nshongi is the name of a river close to where this gorilla family was first sighted. The river has a deep colour similar to honey, and as honey in the local language is called Omushongi Gwoboki the river was named Nshongi.

History of the Gorilla Family

Habituation of this family begun in early 2007, and it was officially launched for tourism on 26th September 2009. This family is unique in that it has 36 individuals (at the last count) and growing, with the silverbacks and blackbacks living in relative harmony. Most gorilla families usually comprise about twenty individuals, with the oldest male silverback leading the group. In the case of this silverback dying, the group will usually split up between the eldest silverback (or the more dominant silverbacks) as was the case in the Habinyanja family. There are some cases where an older silverback can be ‘overthrown’ by a younger, stronger silverback as happened in the Rushegura and Kyaguriro families. It is therefore a distinctive feature of this family to have three silverbacks in the group and seven blackbacks. Even more astonishing is the fact that the dominant silverback – Nshongi is not the oldest silverback in the group.

Several ‘conspiracy’ theories surround his leadership role. One being that he has inherited his father, Mishaya’s dominant position before the patriarch dies. Peace and harmony currently prevail, but for how long? Nshongi’s unrivalled dominance could be under threat from Busasi, the aggressive young blackback who may soon contend for dominance. This is even more likely with the unsettling presence of the adult female Bwiruka who is a favourite of Nshongi’s and has also been known to have secret trysts with Bweza.

What about the adult females in the family? Where do their loyalties lie? With three silverbacks in the family, each having mating privileges, the females in this group are spoilt for choice and it will be intriguing to follow the preferences of the females over this delicate matter of the available and eligible males in the family. How will the fortunes of this family unfold once the blackbacks mature into silverbacks? Friend them and follow the family drama.