Dominant Silverback Bukima
Mountain gorilla populations in Virunga have flourished in recent years, and the continued health of the Rugendo family is something to celebrate. In 2007 the family was victim of an unthinkable crime. Five adults, including silverback Senkwekwe, were murdered by armed men. It was an incredibly dark time for the park. Following the massacre, the park’s rangers kept a close eye on what was left of the family, carefully monitoring their health and behaviour. Now, ten years later, it is amazing to see how much they have overcome.
The family has grown to ten members. In early October 2016, a new baby was born to Bagambe, a young female originally from the Lulengo family. According to Gorilla Doctor Martin Kabuyaya, who visited them last week, the entire group is thriving. There are now two females of childbearing age and another, Buzara, who was recruited from the Mapuwa family, nearing adulthood.
Adult female Bagambe with her baby. Juvenile Mastaki looks on curiously
Adult female Janja napping with her baby
The growth of this family has been dependent on interactions between gorilla families. Though these interactions are only occasional, and can be violent between dominant males, they are a key opportunity for females from larger groups to move to smaller groups. This not only benefits families like Rugendo, but assures the health and wellbeing of the species as a whole because it helps diversify the gene pool. Interactions also prevent large concentrations of gorillas from forming within in a single family, which can help slow disease transmission during outbreaks.
The continued health of Virunga’s mountain gorillas ultimately hinges on the efforts of the rangers and the Gorilla Doctors. If you would like to support their work, please click on following links:
PHOTOS: courtesy of Dr. Martin Kabuyaya