Silverback Kabirizi

At over 40 years of age, Kabirizi is one of the best-known mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park. For many years he roamed the slopes of Mt Mikeno as a solitary silverback. Due to the difficulty of tracking and the danger of approaching solitary gorillas, Kabirizi remained unhabituated throughout this time, meaning his movements were largely unknown.

Sometime after 1995, Kabirizi had interactions with other silverbacks, managing to persuade females from the Luwawa, Ndungutse and Munyaga families to join his troop, which eventually led to his habituation. While most silverback interactions are limited to displays of aggression, there are occasions where disputes can only be settled by physical confrontation. Such contests have left Kabirizi with numerous battle scars across his body, as well as the loss and addition of multiple females along the way.

In 2012, the Kabirizi family was at its peak in terms of troop members with 36 individuals. Inevitably in such large groups, the availability of sexually receptive females and the development of blackbacks into mature silverbacks leads the dominant silverback to experience internal challenges. It was against his son Bageni that Kabirizi had one of his most dramatic encounters, eventually losing 20 individuals to the young silverback.

Despite Kabirizi’s troop shrinking significantly as a result of the feud, it expanded once again to 25 members between January 2013 and May 2022, with the experienced and battle-hardened silverback continuing to guide and protect its members to this day.


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