Rwanda Gorilla Families In Volcanoes National Park Rwanda
Gorillas are social animals staying in groups or families of 6 to 40 or more individuals. A family comprises of the Alpha male (called the silver back), subordinate males (Black backs), females, juveniles and young ones. Each family has its own territory and a home range, where they forage for food. Territories are aggressively or physically defended against male intruders. Territorial
fights are fatal and may lead to the death of the territorial or alpha male. Besides humans and diseases , a mature mountain gorilla has very few enemies.
Gorilla groups in Rwanda also called families are divided into two. The study groups/ families which are accessible to scientists and the tourist groups/families which are open for tourist tracking. The Study groups have the largest number of individuals. Study groups include Beetsme, Pablo's, Shida's and Bwenge. Besides these, there are seven(10) tourist groups
hence 80 permits per day. The famous 7 are,-Susa, Sabyinyo, Amahoro, Kwitonda, Group 13(Agashya), Umubano and Hirwa. Sometimes, these are joined by a migrant group from Uganda. Most of the potential gorilla trackers have diverse questions ranging from the best time to track, the existing gorilla families, accommodation facilities, when to buy permits, tracking rules and regulations and what to bring. We will answer most of these questions and many more on request.
Seven gorilla families open for tourists. Only 8 tourists allowed per group per day.
Susa Group/ Family
the largest group with 41 gorillas. The group is very impressive with three silver-backs and several-black backs, females and several youngsters. Part of the fame of this group are playful 5 year old twins named Byishimo and Impano.The group roams the slopes of Karisimbi Volcano(4507M). Though the group is a bit difficult to track sometimes it is very near. Always find out their location from guides a day earlier
Sabyinyo Group/ Family
One of the easily accessible groups. The group has 8 members led by the biggest silverback known in the entire jungle called Guhonda.
Amahoro Group/ Family
Amahoro meaning peaceful has 17 members led by the peaceful Ubumwe. Amahoro is a more strenuous group to access compared to Group 13 or Sabyinyo
Group 13/ Family(Also Called Agashya)
When first habituated this group had only 13 members hence its name. Now the group has approximately 25 members.
Kwitonda Group/ Family
This migrant group from DR Congo has 18 members led by Kwitonda which means
"humble one." It has two silverbacks and one blackback. Though the group tends to wander far, it is now permanently in the Rwanda Section of Virungas. Together with Susa this is one of the difficult groups to track.
Umubano Group/ Family
A family of 11, Umubano were originally Amahoro members but broke off after the dominant silverback was challenged by Charles, now the leader of Umubano. When a young silverback challenges the dominant silverback he must steal some females from the existing group in order to form his own family; thus Umubano was formed.
Hirwa Group/ Family-Hirwa
is the most diverse group comprising of gorillas from differently families mainly group 13 and Sabyinyo.
Gorilla Tracking Rules/ Gorilla Tracking Regulations / Dos/ Donts
Gorilla tracking is a million dollar practice with immense economic benefits to the local community, without which the mountain gorilla conservation would be a liability. This daily adventure has made the mountain gorilla one of the most expensive animals though not in league of the teddy bears.
Gorilla tracking in volcanoes national park is a clean practice (eco friendly) which ensures minimal impact to the local community, the environment and the gorillas. Rules and regulations have been put in place for the safety of the trackers, the gorillas and to check adverse environmental impacts. Besides these rules and regulations guarantees the continued existence of the gorilla as species, that is to avoid the extinction of the gorillas.
Encounter with the Gorillas has been described as thrilling, evocative and even emotional. The gigantic silver-backs are gentle and will rarely attach unless provoked. Young gorillas are a bit adventurous even playful and will come to touching distance of individual trackers. They are particularly attracted to bright colours like yellow. In that case avoid them. The following are the rules and regulations of tracking gorillas.
When you encounter gorillas, you are required to portray total submissiveness. Do not look at them straight in the eyes and avoid standing over them. If the male gorilla charge at you, crouch down. Gorillas have freedom of way. Do not drum your chest. Do not shout, talk in whispers. The guides will advice on how to behave on encounter. Always follow the instructions from the guides.
- Gorilla Photography/Photographic Safaris.
Flash photography is prohibited. Tourists are allowed normal photography and filming for domestic use. Special Photographic and filming safaris may be organized for particular groups. These will include those who want to film specifically for commercial use and documentaries. These will require accreditation cards unlike normal tourists.
- Health of the Gorillas
There are currently approximately 700 mountain gorillas in the wild. Thus these animals are classified as endangered species. Gorilla tracking if unchecked can endanger the life of gorillas. Gorilla tracking in Rwanda is restricted to 8 persons per day per group. That makes a total of 56 permits per day.
Avoid tracking gorillas if you suffer from contagious disease. In case you develop a severe case of flu, your money will be fully refunded if you make this known in advance. However if you attempt to track and fail for whatever reason, or if the guides discover that you cannot track due to disease, you are disqualified for any refunds and may even be fined. Do not sneeze towards them
Do not spit in the forest or defecate carelessly. If you need to the guides will help you with a machete to dig a hole to bury your waste.
- Environmental consciousness:
Gorilla tracking is a clean activity. Leave only your footprints in the national park. Do not litter and if you spot any litter, collect it and take it down with you.Do not collect any souvenirs from the park.
- Eating while tracking gorillas:
You can carry your picnic but do not eat in the vicinity of the gorillas. You eating might encourage the gorillas to come and share your delicacy with you.
- Chest beating:
Please do not imitate the male gorilla chest beating. The silver back will take that as a challenge and charge after you which can result in severe injuries. Please note that you are not liable for any compensation for any animal related injuries in the parks. Though charging has not been reported for a long time, please avoid any provocation as you will come out second best.
- Age Limit: Only people of 15 years and above are allowed track gorillas. However young children can engage in other activities in volcanoes like tracking golden monkeys.