Hirwa gorilla family / group- The name Hirwa means “lucky one” and the reason for this is simple. This family of gorillas was formed when Munyinga, the Silverback (aka the head honcho) kept getting into trouble with the Susa Family Silverback for mating with his women. So he left taking 2 of the females with him. He then moved to a new territory on the slopes of Mount Sabyinyo and collected other females along the way. I wanted to ask him his secret but since I don’t speak gorillas I knew he would not tell me. What makes this family further lucky is that one of the births resulted in a rare set of gorilla twins!
Mount Sabyinyo is an extinct volcano in the Virunga Mountains. On the other side of its 12,000 foot summit is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The mountain carries the local nickname “Old Man’s Teeth” because its serrated summit resembles worn teeth in a gum line in contrast to the perfect conical summits of the adjacent mountains in this range.
Hirwa gorilla family / group is usually closer than most families and we were lucky to find them within an hour. The trackers found the gorillas on a steep slope and we came upon them as they were napping (except for one of the twins who kept bothering everyone wanting to play).
There is nothing like spending time with these amazing primates. You are only allowed to spend an hour with them.
Another gorilla group in Volcanoes national park Rwanda apart from Hirwa family
Kwitonda gorilla family / group
In 2003, a Silverback named Kwitonda led his family across the border from Virunga National Park in the DR Congo to the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. The family settled in the area between the volcanoes, Mount Sabyinyo and Mount Gahinga. It is believed that pressure from other gorilla families and possibly lone Silverbacks looking to start their own families were the reason for this move.
The Kwitonda family, named after their dominant Silverback still occupies this area today, but now under the dominance of Akarevuro, who was one of the sub-dominant Silverbacks of this family during Kwitonda’s reign.
Sadly, Kwitonda’s body was found on the 10th of September 2012 at a ripe old age estimated at 40 years. In the last few years prior to his death, Kwitonda showed signs of deteriorating health, associated with his age. Pressure from the other 3 silverbacks in the family, Akarevuro, Kigoma and Magumu, also took a toll on the old Silverback’s health.
As his body was only discovered 10 days after he disappeared from the family, it was not possible for the Gorilla Vets to determine the exact cause of death, but it is believed that he died of natural causes. Interesting behavior showed by the old Silverback was when towards the end of his life, he started to allow mating by some of the other Silverbacks in the family. It was as if he knew that he was not strong enough anymore to protect his family against rival males himself. By allowing the other Silverbacks to mate, he strengthened their bond to the family and so ensuring the protection of this group.