Mt. Tshiabirimu’s Katsabara Group Visited by Dr. EddyBy Gorilla Doctors Staff on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 in Blog.
Dr. Eddy made the long trip to Mt. Tshiabirimu last week to assess the health of the remaining six gorillas living on this isolated mountain in DRC. The tiny group is comprised of dominant silverback Katsabara, adult female Mwengesyali (Mwenge for short), and her baby, blackback Mwasa (who will soon be a silverback), blackback Mukokya, and Kambula (gender is still unknown). Below is Dr. Eddy’s report from the health checks:
“Three ICCN rangers, Keita, Jonas and Christophe, and myself left Burusi patrol post around 7am on Thursday morning, reaching Kalibina at 8:30am where we were joined by three additional trackers, Pharaon, Kihurania and Nzoka. The camp’s cook, Mutsuya, prepared our breakfast and we left Kalibina camp at 8:55am to begin trekking the gorillas in the dense bamboo. We found many discarded, partially eaten bamboo shoots on our path and it appeared that the group had been feeding in the area in the late evening of the previous day. After a few more minutes of hiking, we heard the gorillas moving through the bamboo. We followed their trail and found blackback Mwasa and Kambula at 9:40am. These two gorillas were calm, eating bamboo shoots and not moving much as there was abundant food in the area.
During the observation, we heard silverback Katsabara charging in the valley below us, so we decided to trek to him as he can move very fast when he hears people nearby. After a short walk, we located 5 night nests where they had slept the night before.
Blackback Mwasa and Kambula preceded us on the trail as they were moving to join Katsabara. They were moving slowly, preventing us from quickly finding Katsabara.
Once we did see the dominant silverback, we found him charging and chasing adult female Mwenge, before settling down in thick vegetation to eat bamboo shoots. Mwenge’s baby, who has tentatively been named Ndekesiri by trackers, was moving with his/her mother, and in our brief observation, appeared to be in good health. Before the observation came to an end, blackback Mukokya wandered up and settled right in front of us to eat bamboo shoots.
The following day, we found the gorillas sharing the area with a troop of 15 owl-faced monkeys (Cercopithecus hamlini). The monkeys were also feeding on bamboo shoots and scampering around the bamboo.
Silverback Katsabara was more excitable during this health check, and charged us at close proximity. In addition, we could hear blackback Mwasa charging in the valley below. Katsabara was chasing adult female Mwenge, who was screaming and moving quickly to hide in the dense undergrowth, with her baby running behind her. Kambula and blackback Mwasa were more mellow, calming feeding and resting in front of us.
While I was with the Mt. Tshia rangers, I took the opportunity to brief the team on IMPACT data collection and gorilla health monitoring and visitation rules to protect the gorillas’ health. The rangers collected observational data while we were with the group on both days.
During the two health checks, all six gorillas were observed and were visually in good health, including Mwenge’s new baby. Trackers are still working to determine the gender of Kambula, though they believe that she/he behaves more like a female than a male gorilla.”