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Family statistics
Family Size: 15
Silverback: Rukina, Marembo
Blackback: Kafuzi, Byiza
Adult Female: Binyindo, Siatu, Mugwere, Tindamanyere, Twigukye, Matu
Juvenile: Happy, Thursday, Mukiza, Kabandize
Infant: Ponoka

The Kyaguriro group was habituated in 1999 as a group dedicated to research. By closely keeping contact with this group a lot has been learnt about the mountain gorillas of Bwindi. Previously it was believed that the mountain gorillas in Bwindi forest are similar to those of the Virungas, but it has been observed that there are differences between the two types of mountain gorillas. For example, it seems that the blackbacks in the Virungas mature into silverbacks much earlier than the ones in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

During habituation and shortly thereafter this family was under the leadership of an aging silverback called Zeus – yes, named after the Greek god – this was because he was ‘lord and master’ over all the gorillas in his family. That state of affairs didn’t persist for too long as his position was usurped by a rival, and he was banished into the forest. He died in exile. The fate of ousted despots (and even benign rulers) seems to be the same for man and beast alike. That said, mysteries abound in this family (and will most probably remain thus). For example, what claim does Rukina – the current dominant silverback – have as head of the family, seeing as he was no son of Zeus? Will he get a bitter taste of his own medicine, administered to him by Marembo? Where did the adult female Tindamanyere come from and why did the young female gorilla Twigukye, leave her family at such a tender age to join Rukina’s troop?

Of all the 24 habituated gorilla groups/families in Uganda (12 families that call the jungles of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park home and only one gorilla family found in Mgahinga National park), one group named the “Kyaguriro gorilla family” was set aside for research purposes to help in the conservation of these critically endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda. This group provided to the apprehension of the ecology and social behavior of Mountain gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park because of the focus of the research on the group by the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology from 1998. The Group promoted the predicament of the critically endangered mountain gorillas around the globe by being filmed for a number of documentary films including those by the BBC.

Much as it is a group reserved for research purposes, it is full or drama, which makes it one of the most interesting of all the groups in Bwindi National park. The group is found within the Ruhija sector (Eastern part of the Park) and can only be tracked when the demand for gorilla permits goes high. The other two habituated gorilla groups within Ruhija sector include Oruzogo and Bitukura gorillas groups. The Kyaguriro group was habituated in 1999 and during that time, the leader of the group was the elderly silverback-Zeus who was named after the Greek god because at that time he was the “Lord and Master’ of all the mountain gorillas within the family. However, his reign was cut short when his rival Rukina took over power leading to his banishment from the family into the forest, and Zeus later died in exile (because the fate of the dethroned tyrants whether humans and beasts is the same, death in exile).

Rukina (meaning “playful” in Rukiga because of his playful nature when he was still young), was born in around 1984 and became popular in the 1990s as a young brilliant Silverback. He took over power from silverback Zeus in August 2004 after three years’ struggle, making him the leader of the family until 2015 (during Easter season) when he died. Through the genetic analysis of his fecal samples, it was discovered that he fathered his first offsprings in 2002 when he was still an underling male. In total he is believed to have fathered 10 offsprings during his 11 year tenure as the governing silverback. During his time as the leader, he tried to expand the family through luring four adult females into the family from other neighboring gorilla families, corroborating to his ability as a good leader. Rukina was considered a very open-minded leader, spent much of his time with the adult females in addition to his numerous offsprings/infants. At the time this adorable silverback died, the family was at its peak size comprising of 21 members including 8 Adult females. The group is currently led by Silverback Rukara but from the time of Rukina’s death, there was /and there is still instability in the family up to today and there is speculation that the group is soon splitting (resulting from wrangles between Silverback Rukara and another Silverback named Mukiza). Let’s watch this space for more drama and what comes out of these conflicts.

In conclusion, Its a must interesting adventure to go on a Uganda Gorilla Safari specifically to visit this group. Kyaguriro research gorilla group is one of the most interesting gorilla groups in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park because of the drama that surrounds the group but most importantly because it is a foundation for studying and understanding Mountain gorilla behavior within this Park.