Mountain Gorilla Families in Rwanda

In Rwanda, Gorillas are found in Volcanoes national park. The park has 10 habituated Gorilla groups available for tracking by tourists. One gorilla group is for research from which the Kwita Izina baby gorilla naming ceremony is selected. This means, a number of 80 gorilla permits are available each day for tourists. In short 8 gorilla trackers visit each gorilla group in Rwanda. You will realize that all the gorilla groups in Rwanda have different behaviors. Below are the different Gorilla groups in Rwanda:

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  • Susa Group A

This is the most popular family with previously 42 members before the split. Well known for being the group studied by Diana Fossey during her time in Rwanda from 1967 to 1985. Susa A group is well known for its playful twins of Byishimo & Impano and was named after the Susa River that drains through their home range. The group is composed of 33 members including 2 silverbacks and inhabits the forests on the lower slopes of Mt. Karisimbi.

  • Karisimbi group /Susa B

This gorilla group split from Susa A. It is made up of 16 members including 2 silverbacks. The group is the hardest to track as it inhabits the upper slopes of Mt. Karisimbi at an altitude of 4507m. The group has established their home high in the upper slopes and is suitable for trackers interested in serious hiking. You need to be very ready for the long hike to track this group.

  • Ugenda Gorilla Group

This is a Kinyarwanda word ‘Ugenda’ to mean ‘on the move’ or ‘mobile’. The group was named after its unique behavior of roaming from place to place. It consists of 11 members including 2 silverbacks and wonders around the Karisimbi area hence very difficult to track since it has no particular home. It keeps moving.

  • Amahoro Gorilla Group

This is the most peaceful group to track in Rwanda. It is composed of 18 members with 2 silverbacks and is a bit strenuous to track as one has to endure a hike up Mt. Bisoke slopes where the group established their home.

  • Titus Gorilla Group

This group was named after the Silverback Titus which was born during the days of Dian Fossey’s research at Karisoke which was the gorilla group Dian Fossey was studying. Titus lost his family to poachers including his father, uncle, and brother and his mother and sister joined other families leaving Titus to be raised by an unrelated male gorilla. According to Dian Fossey Titus the infant seemed “underdeveloped and spindly” and had difficulty breathing, but Titus overcame these difficulties.

  • Umubano Group

This group is composed of 13 members including 2 silverbacks. This family broke away from Ubumwe silverback as a result of constant battles between Charles and Ubumwe the two head silverbacks; Charles consistently challenged the supremacy of the leader Ubumwe. Charles eventually succeeded in breaking away with some members hence forming the Umubano group.

  • Sabyinyo Gorilla Group

This group is composed of 13 members including one silverback after another was exiled from the group. The commander of the group; Guhonda is the largest silverback in the park weighing about 220kg. The group was named after the Sabinyo volcano.

The Sabinyo gorilla group is the nearest gorilla family and easiest to track. It stays in the gentle slopes between Mt. Sabyinyo and Mt. Gahinga. The group is popular for its giant silverback known as Guhonda which has kept its main challenger, Ryango out of the family to remain as a lonely silverback.

  • Agashya Gorilla Group

This group is named after the initial family individual who were 13 at the time of habituation. The group was initially led by a silverback called Nyakarima but was later overthrown by Agashya meaning the ‘ News’ which is now the leader and the family was named after him. Today the family has grown to 27 members including one silverback (Agashya).

  • Hirwa Gorilla Group

This family was formed in 2006 by some members of the Sabyinyo group and others from 13 group (Agashya). More gorillas joined in and now the group is composed of 16 members including one silver back. The group derived its name from its formation process that was out of luck. Hirwa means ‘the Lucky one’ and as luck has it, the group got twins in 2011. Hirwa group inhabits the foothills of Mt. Sabyinyo to the side of Mt Gahinga.

  • Bwenge Gorilla Group

This group occupies slopes of Karisoke volcano between Karisimbi and Bisoke mountains and had witnessed dark times when its 6 infants died. The group has however recovered and now has 11 members including one silverback. Bwenge is a Kinyarwanda word which means ‘Wisdom’ and it’s no wonder that this was the group that was featured in the Movie ‘Gorillas in the Mist’!

  • Kwitonda Gorilla Group

This group migrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was named after its dominant silverback called Kwitonda which means the ‘Humble one’. Because of its migration background, the group wonders in the lower slopes of Mt. Muhabura and like Karisimbi group, it is onerous to track as it sometimes moves to the upper slopes. The group is composed of 23 members including 4 silverbacks.

With the above, you will see that every group has advantages and disadvantages while tracking them. Some are hard to track, others are peaceful, playful, and friendly and each group indicated the way it was formed.

Any group you wish to track will be booked for you in Rwanda if you contact us for a stress free gorilla tracking safari in Rwanda