In his latest blog, Dr. Fred, our Uganda in-country field veterinarian, offers a comprehensive overview of the health status of the gorillas he monitors and treats in Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga national park. Read on to learn about the group composition and health histories of the 9 gorilla groups regularly monitored by the Gorilla Doctors in Uganda.

Silverback in Bwindi.

Brief Background

In Uganda, the Gorilla Doctors monitor the gorillas of Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga national parks. Bwindi is home to about half of the world’s mountain gorillas. According to a 2006 Gorilla Census that was carried out in Bwindi, 30 gorilla groups were counted with a total of 340 individuals (both habituated and non-habituated animals). Currently Bwindi has 7 habituated groups of gorillas for tourism and one for research. There are also 2 groups undergoing habituation. The habituated gorilla groups for tourism include Mubale, Rushegura, Habinyanja, Bitukura, Nkuringo, Nshongi, and Mishaya. The Uganda Wildlife Authority is in the process of habituating two additional groups, the Kahungye or Bikingi group, and the Oruzogo or Star Group.

The Kyaguliro group is reserved for the researchers of the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, which is part of the Virunga Massif along with Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and DRC’s Virunga National Park, has one habituated group called Nyakagezi.

Health Status of Groups Monitored by the Gorilla Doctors

Mubale adult female and blackback.


Mubale is the oldest habituated group in Bwindi. The group was first seen and habituated in a place called Mubale, hence the group name. The group had over 10 individuals at one time but there are currently only 5 gorillas. The group lost some individuals to other groups and some were killed outside the park. The gorillas have been ranging in the park boundaries from Rubona, Mukono side, Nyakabingo area, Bwanya, Kinyamakende, and at times crossing with the ranging of Rushegura group since the beginning of the year. They have at times been crossing the ranging area of the lone silverbacks Makare and Ndumanga but there has been no reported fighting.

Group Composition
Ruhondeza (dominant silverback)
Kanyonyi (blackback)
Kashundwe (adult female)
Muyambi (sub-adult male)
Malaika (sub-adult female)
Kashundwe baby (infant)

Health Status/MGVP Interventions
The group has been healthy and not moving a lot. I have visited this group 7 times. The newborn baby to Kashundwe is well and healthy.

Rushegura juvenile.


Rushegura is a group that split off from Habinyanja group. The group has since been moving a lot and the group currently ranges from Mukono area, Bwanya, Kiburangwe, Nyarutokye, Batwa village, Buhoma camp area, Buhoma Office area, Buhoma Waterfall, and the Uganda-DRC border area. It frequently moves out of the park and goes to raid banana gardens and eucalyptus plantations. The group currently has 19 gorillas.

Group Composition
Mwirima (dominant silverback)
Kabukojo (blackback)
Kyirinvi (adult female)
Kibande (adult female)
Buzinza (adult female)
Nyamunwa (adult female)
Karungyi (adult female)
Kalembezi (sub-adult male)
Ruterana (sub-adult female)
Nyampazi (juvenile)
Kafuruka (juvenile)
Kibande baby (juvenile)
Karungyi baby (juvenile)
Kanywanyi (juvenile)
Kyirinvi baby (infant)
Buzinza baby (infant)
Nyamunwa baby (infant)
Kibande second baby (infant)
Katabazi (infant)

Health Status/MGVP Interventions
I have visited this group 6 times.  The group has generally been well and healthy with only a few reported ailments. Adult female Kyirinvi had a small slit wound on her left ear which healed. All the adult females have infants still nursing and all are healthy.
Habinyanja blackback.

Habinyanja Group

Habinyanja group was a big group after habituation but later it split up and some gorillas moved to Rushegura group. The group was headed by a silverback named Rwansigazi. Later Rwansigazi was chased away by the silverback Makara who is the current leader of the group. Rwansigazi left the group with 3 females who live on their own in the forest. Habinyanja group has been ranging from Kahororo, Nyamishamba through the forest via Rushegura to the Rubona side of the park. The group at times goes out of the park near the areas of Kahororo. It has the widest home range and often interacts with both Rushegura and Mubale groups. Mubale lost a juvenile female called Malaika to Habinyanja after an interaction.
Group Composition
Makara (dominant silverback)
Maraya (blackback)
Mizano (blackback)
Binyonko (adult female)
Nyabuche (adult female)
Nyamuhango (adult female)
Rukundo (adult female)
Kisho (adult female)
Rugyendo (adult female)
Kavuyo (sub-adult male)
Ruyombo (sub-adult female)
Malaika (juvenile female)
Hamusini (juvenile)
Elisa (juvenile)
Binyonko Baby (infant)
Rukundo Baby (infant)
Rugyendo Baby (infant)
Kisho Baby (infant)
Binyonko Baby (infant)
Nyabuche Baby (Newborn)

Health Status/MGVP Interventions
I have seen this group 7 times. There were several fights in the group involving the dominant male Makara and next in rank Maraya. Maraya sustained several wounds but the wounds healed later. The sub-adult female Ruyombo was bloated for some days but danger was ruled out because she was feeding normally and other parameters within normal ranges. The group is generally healthy. No interventions in spite of injuries.

Bitukura adult female.

Bitukura Group

This is one of the recently habituated groups in Bwindi. It is an interesting group with 4 silverbacks where the second youngest silverback, Ndahura, is the leader. The silverbacks apart from the dominant one move with 2 blackbacks of the group. There is alliance between 2 silverbacks (Rukara and Rukumu) and 2 blackbacks (Mugisha and Obia) which is most evident during fights among the big males.

Group Composition
Ndahura (dominant silverback)
Karamuzi (2nd silverback)
Rukumu (3rd silverback)
Rukara (4th silverback)
Betina (adult female)
Ruhara (adult female)
Kamuga (adult female)
Obia (blackback)
Mugisha (blackback)
Twakire (juvenile)
Kabandize (juvenile/emigrated from Kyaguliro)
Kadogo (infant)
Mubwindi (infant)

Health Status/MGVP Interventions
I have seen this group 4 times. silverbacks Rukara and Karamuzi sustained injuries and after an interaction with Kyaguliro group, but they have recovered.

Nkuringo infant.

Nkuringo Group

The group is one of the three habituated groups in the southern sector of Bwindi. Since habituation, the gorillas are spending more time outside the park in the community land surrounding the forest. This area was later purchased and became the Buffer Zone between the forest and community. The group was led by Nkuringo who later died and was replaced by Safari. During the take-over by Safari, some blackbacks left the group.

Group Composition
Safari (dominant silverback)
Rafiki (2nd silverback)
Bahati (3rd silverback)
Kirungi (4th silverback)
Kwitonda (adult female)
Mama Christmas (adult female)
Samehe (adult female)
Kasotora (adult female)
Karibu (blackback)
Posho (blackback)
Christmas (blackback)
Kwesima (juvenile)
Magara (juvenile)
Kuhirwa (juvenile female)
Rwamutwe (infant)
Muhozi (infant)
Tabu (infant)
Furaha (infant)
Kiiza (infant)

Health Status/MGVP Interventions
I have visited this group 8 times including for an intervention when the infant Katungi, the twin of infant Muhozi, was reported abandoned by its mother. Sadly she was too weak and died. We carried out her necropsy of a day after the intervention. I have also monitored Safari and Posho, who had wounds from fighting which healed.

Nshongi adult female.

Nshongi Group

This is the largest group in Bwindi with 25 members although it used to have many more members. There are many blackbacks in the group and 3 of them have since moved on. These 3 blackbacks had started to turn silver and were involved in many fights. The silverback Mishaya left the group with 9 others in July to establish a new group.

Group Composition
Nshongi (dominant silverback)
Kakono (2nd silverback)
Bweza (blackback)
Matama (blackback)
Busasa (blackback)
Bwire (blackback)
Munnywa (blackback)
Kutu (blackback)
Tinfayo (blackback)
Munini (adult female)
Shida (adult female)
Bukojo (adult female)
Nyampundu (adult female)
Bwiruka (adult female)
Tindatine (juvenile)
Mahoro (juvenile)
Mureba (juvenile)
Rurehuka (juvenile)
Mucunguzi (juvenile)
Kazani (infant)
Katoono (infant)
Mukiza (infant)
Ninsiima (infant)
Bwiruka baby (infant)
Rotary (infant)

Health Status/MGVP Interventions
I have been to this group 8 times including several checkups on gorillas injured in fights. Two the visits were for necropsies of dead gorillas including the adult female gorilla Nkuhene who died on July 19. It seemed that she had died from wounds sustained during a fight with gorillas from a non-habituated group. She was bitten severely and excessive blood loss and organ perforation and prolapse were major factors that led to her death.

Mishaya infant.

Mishaya Group

This is the newest group that split from Nshongi in July 2010. It is led by Mishaya.

Group Composition
Mishaya (dominant silverback)
Bakunzi (adult female)
Mwiza (adult female)
Rutaro (juvenile)
Mize (juvenile)
Mwiza Baby 1(infant)
Mwiza baby 2 (infant)
Bakunzi baby (infant)
Un-identified infant 1
Un-identified infant 2

Health Status/MGVP Interventions
Health monitoring visits. I have visited this group twice including one after the split from Nshongi group. The group is healthy and has been behaviourally okay for tourism.

Kyaguliro silverback.

Kyaguliro Group

This is the research group in Bwindi. The group ranges in the same area where Bitukura group also ranges. On occastions,  blackbacks and juveniles have since left the group to join Bitukura. In the recent past, a juvenile and an infant left the group after an interaction. The infant disappeared and is considered dead.

Group Composition
Rukina (dominant silverback)
Matu (adult female)
Siato (adult female)
Binyindo (adult female)
Mugwere (adult female)
Tindamanyire (adult female)
Mukiza (blackback)
Twijukye (juvenile female/emigrated from Bitukura)
Happy (infant)
Thursday (infant)

Health Status/MGVP Interventions
I have checked on this group twice including to check on the group after an interaction with Bitukura group.  The group has generally been healthy except for infant who disappeared after spending one day with Bitukura.

Nyakagezi silverback.

Nyakagezi Group (Mgahinga National Park)

The only fully habituated group in Mgahinga for tourism is Nyakagezi. The group ranges into Rwanda and DRC frequently and has lost two members to other groups during interactions in those countries.

Group Composition
Mark (dominant silverback)
Bigingo (2nd silverback)
Mafia (3rd silverback)
Inshuti (adult female)
Un-identified female (adult female)
Rukundo (blackback)
Ndungutse (blackback)
Inshuti baby (infant)
Un-identified female’s infant

Health Status/MGVP Interventions
The group has generally been healthy. I have seen this group 4 times for health checks on once for an intervention to remove a snare from the leg of Inshuti’s baby. He is now healthy and doing well.