April 6th 2015, was an Easter Monday to the entire religious sector around the world, as celebrations were going on. On the other hand, it was a sad and painful day in the tourism industry. In Bwindi impenetrable forest national park, one of the parks where tourists enjoy gorilla tours, one of the silverbacks died. The mountain gorillas are distributed and families named basing on the regions they are found. It was tears in the Ruhija sector, the dominant silverback known as RUKINA belonging to the Kyaguriro family passed on. RUKINA, is estimated to have been born around 1984. He came to be noticed in the late 1990’s when he was still a very young silverback then and developed a very strong attachment to the Kyagurilo group.
During his youth, he was noticed to have a very active and playful nature. It was at this time that he was given the name ‘Rukina’, meaning ‘playful’ in “Rukiga”, a local language. He all along lived under the dominance of Zeus who was the dominant silver back of the group at that time. Rukina however for 3 years struggled so hard for dominance and always gave a hard time to Zeus. He finally became the dominant silverback of the group in August of 2004. It is believed that Rukina sired his first offspring in 2002 when he was still a subordinate male, as shown through the genetic analysis made of the fecal samples.
Rukina is estimated to have sired a total of 10 offsprings, most of whom are currently still infants. His abilities, and qualities made him a very good leader who during his 11 year tenure as the dominant silverback he attracted four females into his group from neighboring groups, interesting isn’t it! He was such a caring silverback as he loved spending a lot of time with the adult females as well as his many infants. At the time he passed on, he left behind a very large group containing 21 gorillas. This was recorded as the largest size ever of this group, and it contained 8 adult females.
Rukina was not only a key figure among his gorilla group he also contributed a lot to research. He was a centre of focus in the understanding of the ecology and social behavior of Bwindi mountain gorillas due to the focus of research on his group by the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology since 1998. He helped promote the plight of the critically endangered mountain gorillas around the world by being filmed for several documentary films including one by the BBC. It’s not only in humans, as a culture here in Africa; when one passes on, then someone else from his or her line will always step in his or her shoes.
This group is now being led by Rukara the next Silverback to dominate this group after Rukina. There was some instability in the group after the passing on of Rukina. However, after a few days the trackers noted some bit of calmness though this may take a bit of time before the group fully recovers from this unexpected shock. Rukina will be truly missed by his dear infants, and the female adults hopefully by the entire nature lovers who had visited him not forgetting the entire Uganda Wildlife Authority headquarter team in Ruhija. We hope Rukara will fit into his shoes and lead the group. May Rukina’s soul rest in peace! You will always be in our hearts.