Adult female Janja’s baby striking a pose – Rugendo family
During the first week of June, Gorilla Doctor Martin Kabuyaya and Virunga’s rangers performed routine health checks on the Rugendo and Nyakamwe mountain gorilla families. Both groups were found to be in excellent health and thriving. This is exactly the news everyone hoped to receive. To give you a better feel for the two families, we thought it would be helpful to share some of their history.
The Rugendo family is comprised mostly of survivors of the shocking gorilla murders of 2007. This group has endured a number of hardships since that terrible day in July when six of the group’s 12 members were shot. In July 2009, rangers found blackback Bariyanga dead in the forest. His death was the result of a violent confrontation with adult males from a non-habituated group, but it was tragic nonetheless. Then in July 2013, the Rugendo family made the mistake of raiding a maize crop and were chased off by angry villagers. Janja’s baby was not fast enough to stay ahead of the people in pursuit and was fatally wounded by a machete strike. For the last three years, though, life in the Rugendo family has been good.
Janja trying to catch a nap while her little one looms above
Rugendo blackback Noël hanging out with Janja’s baby
Up in the tree, hanging with Noël, looking dignified here with female juvenile Mastaki… Janja’s little one tried to make the most of every photo opportunity.
Silverback Bukima – Leader of the Rugendo family
Silverback Nyakamwe grew up in the Humba group and when he reached maturity, he began challenging Humba for dominance. These challenges went on for several years and both males inflicted serious wounds on one another. Eventually, Nyakamwe was able to split the group and start his own family. What goes around comes around though, and before long, Nyakamwe began having his authority challenged by blackback Semakuba. Silverback Nyakamwe remains in charge but he’ll need to be increasingly vigilant as Semakuba reaches full maturity.
Leader – Silverback Nyakamwe
Precious beyond words – Kanyarunga and her baby
Thanks go out to Gorilla Doctors Martin Kabuyaya and Eddy Kambale for these stunning images.
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