Kwitonda in 2012.

On Monday September 10th, Volcanoes National Park trackers found the lifeless body of silverback Kwitonda, the dominant silverback of Kwitonda group, some distance from his group. He had been missing from his group since August 30, and despite daily efforts to locate him in the thick forest, his body was not found until 10 days later. Over the last several years the aging silverback, estimated to be about 40 years old, had been showing signs of fading health and was losing ground to the three younger silverbacks in the group, Akarevuro, Kigoma and Magumu.

Originally formed in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kwitonda group migrated to Rwanda in 2003 to escape pressure from other groups. The group settled in the area between Mt. Sabyinyo and Mt. Gahinga , and is now comprised of 23 family members. Kwitonda quickly became a popular group for tourists to visit. The silverback was famous for his relaxed attitude towards humans and his many babies.

Porters carried Kwitonda’s body out of the forest so that the Gorilla Doctors could perform a post mortem exam. Because of the degree of decomposition, it was not possible to determine the cause of death, but our pathologist will further analyze the tissue samples in the coming months.

Silverback Akarevuro, the new leader of Kwitonda group.

Silverback Akarevuro is the new leader of Kwitonda group. He has assumed leadership of the group but the other silverbacks, especially Kigoma, may challenge his authority. We’ll be sure to report on any major changes in the group.  

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

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