by Dr. Jean Felix Kinani

I visited Hirwa group on April 16, 2013 for a Routine Health Check. We found the group in the Rwebeya area of Volcanoes National Park. Rwebeya is a big stream that runs through the park that swells to a sizeable river during the rainy season, often destroying houses in the Musanze sectors when it does. Near the Rwebeya stream, we saw seven buffalo and one calve, and the group began moving away as soon as we arrived.

During my health check, I reassessed 14-month-old Gikundiro, who was previously observed to have small herpes-like lesions on her nose. Although I would have liked to get a saliva sample for Dr. Tierra Smiley’s research (for more, read the Gorilla Doctors blog post here:, Gikundiro was not observed feeding during my observation. The group was active and dominant silverback Munyinya aggressed Kabatwa once, when she decided to not move with the group. The gorillas were eating bamboo shoots (Yushania alpina) and Urera hypselodendron (Umuse).

Adult female Ntamuhezo during feeding time.

Adult female Kabatwa strikes a pose.

It was interesting to observe youngsters Icyamamare, Aheza and Twitabeho clinging to bamboo stalks while trying to cross the big stream.

Aheza and Twitabeho crossing the stream.

Female infant Aheza crossing the stream.

Female infant Aheza having trouble crossing the stream.

I have often noticed in Kwitonda group that the gorillas like to play with the stream water and on my visit to Hirwa group, I observed similar behavior. Silverback Munyinya and several other individuals were also drinking water using the back of their hand, a rare observation in mountain gorillas as they get the majority of their fluid intake from the vegetation. 

Uburanga drinking water

Uburanga drinking water

7-year-old Rwunguko drinking water.

All 17 gorillas in Hirwa group were observed and were visually in good health.

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