Volcanoes National Park

Gorilla Families In Rwanda


Rwanda is incredibly rich with diverse range of wildlife, including endangered mountain gorillas. Gorilla trekking is a popular tour in this country, and there are 13 habituated gorilla families that one can visit in Rwanda. These gorillas reside in Volcanoes National Park on the slopes of Karisimbi and Bisoke mountains which are part of the Virunga ranges.

The 13 gorilla groups are Sabyinyo, Susa, Karisimbi, Umubano, Amahoro, Kwitonda, Hirwa, Bwenge, Agashya, Baraka, Noheli Kwisanga and Ugenda.

Sabyinyo Family

The Sabyinyo family is named after the Sabyinyo volcano that it calls home. It was the first gorilla family to be habituated in Rwanda in 1972, and it is one of the most popular groups to visit due to its proximity to the park headquarters. The family is led by a silverback named Guhonda, who is known for his massive size (weighing about 220kg) and calm demeanor.

There are currently 18 members in this family and they include three silverbacks, three adult females, and several juveniles.

Susa Family

The Susa family is one of the largest with 42 members and oldest gorilla groups in Rwanda. It was named after the Susa River, which runs through their territory. The family was made famous by the primatologist Dian Fossey, who studied them extensively and they featured in the movie, “Gorillas in the Mist.” The group is currently led by a silverback named Kurira and also known as Susa A. This family also has infant twins Impano and Byishimo.

Karisimbi Family

The Karisimbi family is named after Mount Karisimbi where they resided along its steep slopes and this also happens to be the highest of the Virunga Mountains.  It is one of the smaller gorilla groups in Rwanda, with only 15 members.

The family is known for its peaceful nature, and they are often found foraging for food in the bamboo forests and often times they tend to migrate to very high-altitude areas hence forcing the trek to be postponed. During such times, some rangers first go ahead to confirm if the gorillas are available or not.

Umubano Family

This family was formed in 2008 when a silverback Charles who was once part of the Amahoro group broke away from it to form the Umubano family. During his departure he brought along some adult females who reproduced to form the current numbers, the family has grown to 11 members. Umubano means “living together” and this is depicted through staying close to the Amahoro family though they broke away from them.

Amahoro Family

Along the slopes of Mount Bisoke, we come across the Amahoro family led by a dominant but calm silverback Ubumbwe. It currently has 21 members and has proven to be a favorite among trekkers due its peaceful nature and playful and adorable infants who entertain the trekkers. It’s of no doubt that this family is peaceful because even its name Amahoro means “peace” in Kinyarwanda. The only conflict it has ever faced is when Charles broke away from them to create the Umubano family.

Kwitonda Family

Kwitonda means “humble one” in the local language Kinyarwanda. This family is known for not settling in one place they are always on the move to Congo where they originally came from. It has recently settled on the slopes of Mount Muhabura. It currently has 18 members of which 2 are silverbacks.

Hirwa family

This family was named Hirwa which means “lucky one” because most of the members joined it freely. It was formed when some members of the Sabyinyo family and Group 13 joined to form this new group. Staying along the slopes of Mount Sabyinyo, this group now has 16 members inclusive of twins.

Bwenge family

Established in 2017, this family was named Bwenge meaning “wisdom.” It resides along the slopes of Mount Karisoke with its 11 members led by a dominant silverback Bwenge who separated from his initial family forming this current one. One of its members starred in the movie “Gorillas in the mist.”

Agashya family

Originally known as Group 13 led by Nyakarima, this group split due to the battle for power between Nyakarima and Agashya. Agashya won this battle and decided to lead the family to the peak of mount Sabyinyo. He is till the leader and has continuously recruited more members who separate from their families, it currently has 5 members and its neighboring family is the Sabyinyo group.

Ugenda family

Just like the Kwitonda family, this is another restless group that keeps on moving from one place to another looking for food and favorable living conditions therefore making trekking a challenge because of the possibilities of not finding them when expected to. This also influenced their name Ugenda which means “being on the move,” the group now has 11 members and can be found on the slopes of Karisimbi Mountain.

Baraka family

A new addition in the park, this group is led by dominant silverback Baraka and stays around Gikereri area. It is still undergoing habituation which it started in February, 2020. It so far has 19 members though observations of this family are still going on, it is open for tourism to tourists who take part in the gorilla habituation experience.

Noheli family

Established on 17th November, 2021, it is one of the newly added families and smallest habituated group. Located in volcanoes national park, the group started by Noheli who was joined by three females who broke away from Isimbi and Susa groups, other females joined with an infant and two more were produced hence creating the current 7-member family led by Noheli.

Kwisanga Family

Kwisanga group was formed on 4th May, 2021 when the leader Kigoma decided to break away from Kwitonda with 16 members. He left peacefully with no hindrances as most of his followers wanted him to be the leader.

The group now has 17 members, 2 silverbacks, 3 adult females, 2 blackbacks, 2 male adolescents, 3 juveniles and 5 infants.

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