By Dr. Eddy Kambale

On Friday, April 12, I trekked to Kabirizi group for a routine health check, along with Dr. Martin, one Virunga National Park ranger and one tracker. We left the Bukima patrol post at 7:05am and walked along the park boundary through several villages. We met with the other team from GATOVU at 9:10am and then entered the forest from the Gisiza torrent, where intensive rebel fighting occurred last month. The gorillas’ trails led us up the Mikeno Mountain and we located the group at 10:08am, in the Murukore area of the forest. The gorillas were feeding on wild celery, Drogesta and Urea and moving up in elevation as they fed.

Adult females and an infant feed alongside dominant silverback Kabirizi.

A juvenile gorilla feeds on the roots of a dead tree.

We observed several females with their infants, moving behind dominant silverback Kabirizi. The leader of the group, who normally charges us during our visits, just watched us peacefully while he fed on celery. 

We were able to observe the young silverback Masibo, whose black hair has just recently turned to silver. We hope that he is now the second dominant male in the group and will be able to help the aging leader Kabirizi protect the group during interactions with other gorillas. With Kabirizi’s aging, it appears that he has lost all of his canine teeth, an important element in interactions and self-protection. 

Dominant silverback Kabirizi

Currently the group is staying far from the Bukima patrol post and instead, trackers are monitoring the group from the Gatovu patrol post. We suspect that Kabirizi, in his aging and weakening state, is ensuring that his group remains far from Bageni group, which is undoubtedly the most challenging group in the area. 

All 16 gorillas in Kabirizi group were observed and all appeared to be in good health. We left them at 11:33am, as the group continued to make their way further up Mikeno Mountain. 

You can follow the Gorilla Doctors health monitoring efforts on our Facebook page, where we post photos and notes from our monthly visits.

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