Kabatwa’s Twins!By Gorilla Doctors Staff on Friday, February 4th, 2011 in Uncategorized.
Wednesday started as any routine health check in a gorilla group – I gathered camera, GPS, radio, printed the Hirwa group health record sheet and headed to the forest. I picked up the RDB tracker Safari and off we went. Safari explained that the group had been outside the forest for the past 3 days munching on eucalyptus, much to the farmer’s dismay… but today they were inside. It was a gorgeous sunny morning, and all the mountains were crystal clear.
We found the group quickly, about 10 minutes inside the buffalo wall, resting and eating. They were in an open area of thick vegetation, all very calm. Munyinya, the silverback, was lying on his back in the sun, legs and arms akimbo, with his big belly showing prominently. There were females and babies lounging and playing all around him. Impundu and Uburanga, two juvenile males, were playing on a vine, climbing up then spinning and spinning, finally falling back to the ground, just to get up and do it all over again. Safari and I accounted for all gorillas in the group except for adult female Kabatwa despite 30 minutes of searching before the tourists arrived.
Reluctantly, I headed back to MGVP headquarters to do my desk work. Much to my surprise, about an hour later, Safari and Elisabeth (the veterinary Warden for RDB and our good friend and partner) called me to tell me he had found Kabatwa, and she had 2 babies!!! Both were strong and Safari saw then nursing! Twins are rare in gorillas, but not unheard of. There are 3 year old twins in Susa group, and twins have been recorded in other groups. I immediately made plans to return to the group the next day to assess the babies.
This morning I went up with great anticipation. Damascene, the monitoring Warden for RDB came with us. The group had not moved far – Munyinya would be very patient with Kabatwa, considering that she could not move far or quickly with her new little charges. It was another glorious sunny morning, and the group was feeding calmly high in the trees on the edge of a ravine.
It took some 30 minutes for Safari to find Kabatwa, and we waited while she made her way down the slope. The wait was well worth it. As she emerged from the bushes we could see one small head in her arm. She sat not far from us and adjusted the babies, and we could see another little face – both babies were holding on and moving their tiny arms. One even had his eyes open, although they looked a little unfocused, like newborn baby eyes are for a few days. Both looked to be about 3 kg – almost the size of a singleton gorilla newborn! Kabatwa was strong, and hungry! She fed for at least 30 minutes, and finally laid down for a rest. She adjusted the babies whenever she moved, so carefully and delicately. Clearly a loving mother. Damascene, Safari and I could not stop smiling! This is a good start for these little twins. Here is a video.
We left her in peace – no tourists will visit the group today so that she can have time to bond with her babies. We are all hopeful that both babies will survive – she is an experienced mom, and they are a good size. If we can get another month of sun before the long rains set in, they will have a good chance. Fingers crossed for Kabatwa and her baby boys!