On January 27, Gorilla Doctors received a report that lone silverbacks Mukunda and Bageni, both ranging in the Mikeno sector of Virunga National Park, had fought and both sustained potentially severe injuries. Head DRC Field Vet Dr. Eddy was traveling from Kinshasha at the time, so Dr. Martin trekked to the lone silverbacks to conduct a veterinary assessment the following day. The M23 rebels are currently occupying the Mikeno sector in Virunga National Park, so working in the area can be dangerous. Thankfully, Dr. Martin was able to get to the silverbacks without incident. 

Once both lone silverbacks were located, Dr. Martin reported that both males had indeed sustained injuries from the fight, but that neither wounds appeared to be life-threatening. Bageni had a large wound, about 10 cm long and 3 cm deep, on his right arm that will continue to be monitored for any signs of infection. With some small wounds on his right foot and hand, Mukunda seems to have incurred less trauma than Bageni from the fight, but both males should make a full recovery on their own.

Wound on lone silverback Mukunda’s right foot.Close up of Mukunda’s wound on his right foot and hand.

In July 2011, Mukunda fought with and killed another male named Jeshi. Jeshi was a blackback at the time and he had fought with dominant silverback Kabrizi two weeks prior, but succumbed to the fatal wounds inflicted by lone silverback Mukunda. It is always sad to lose a large, impressive male gorilla. But, unfortunately, it is not unusual in gorilla society. The lives of silverbacks and blackbacks are often marked by violence as male gorillas struggle to maintain power or overthrow others. 

17-year-old Mukunda is the son of Senkwekwe, a silverback who tragically lost his life in 2007 after poachers shot and killed him and six other members of his group. Mukunda was just a blackback when he saw his family massacred, but was able to successfully help his remaining family members escape and eventually form Rugendo group. Two years ago, the young silverback began to leave the group and range solo for long periods of time, eventually becoming a lone silverback.

Mukunda is notorious for leaving the boundaries of Virunga National Park to raid crops in the adjacent villages. Sometimes, his excursions bring him so far from the park that Gorilla Doctors have had to intervene and dart him with an anesthetic drug in order to bring him back to the protected forests. Mukunda’s affinity for bananas, potatoes and corn have gotten him into trouble in the past years. To read about his forays outside of the park, check out these previous Gorilla Doctors blog posts:



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

Please consider supporting us by making a secure online donation. Every dollar you give goes to directly supporting our gorilla health programs and One Health initiative. Thank you for your generosity.