by Dr. Dawn Zimmerman

The Ugenda group was found split on February 20th, after a lone silverback, identified as Gushimira, acquired the three adult females (Kanama, Inziza, and Kurudi) during an interaction thought to have occurred on the evening of Feb 19th.  The two silverbacks of Ugenda group, Ugenda and Wageni, both sustained injuries. Interestingly, Gushimira, the smaller-sized silverback who left Pablo group in August 2011, did not appear to be wounded after the altercation.

Lone silverback Gushimira

During a veterinary assessment of the silverbacks’ wounds, a routine health check on the rest of the group was performed.  Ugenda group (consisting now of six individuals: the two silverbacks and all infants/juveniles) was found in the Munoga area at the same site trackers left them the previous day. The lack of movement was likely due to the weakness of the silverbacks after sustaining injuries from the interaction with lone silverback Gushimira.  

Gorillas hovering around dominant silverback Ugenda.

The health assessment was from 8:45 – 9:45am with the Fossey Fund’s Veronica Vecellio and 3 Fossey Fund trackers.  Excluding the silverbacks’ wounds, the rest of Ugenda group appeared to be in good health with the 3 juveniles and almost 3-year-old infant Sabato looking well but with a small superficial wound to his right ear.  Sabato was reported by Fossey Fund staff to be calling for his mother the previous day, who was then with the lone silverback. Sabato was still nursing, evident by the swollen mammary glands of mother Kurudi when later observed.

3-year-old infant Sabato had a small superficial wound on his right ear.

Ugenda was found resting, appearing weak and laying on his back a short distance away from the group.  His stomach appeared flat, and likely he had not eaten much since the previous day. 

Silverback Ugenda resting on his back.

He had sustained an approximately 8cm long and 2cm deep laceration to the back of his head.  The wound was linked to the movement of his head, such that it gaped with flexion and lateral movement of his neck.  Although a significant wound and quite deep, it was clean with no signs of infection. 

Ugenda’s head wound.

He had another significant wound to his right wrist, approximately 6cm in length and 1cm deep.  The wound was fairly clean despite some pieces of vegetation, and Ugenda licked at it intermittently over the hour.  

Ugenda cleaning his wrist wound with infant Sabato resting on his back.

About 30 minutes into the observation period, the group moved off a short distance.  Ugenda appeared to ambulate well, but stopped to rest after only a short distance.  His respiratory rate was normal at 20 rpm (resting).  Towards the end of the observation period, he moved off another short distance and began feeding.  As he was sitting up at this time, a mild swelling to the left side of his face was observed.

Beta male Wageni was also found resting with the group.  He often sat up to clean his wounds.  He had sustained an approximately 6cm long laceration to the top of his head laterally to the left, although it did not appear very deep, was clean, and already closing. He had multiple superficial wounds on his right hand at the lateral palm and 5th digit, a deeper wound approximately 4cm in length on his left arm, and a wound on his right arm just distal to the elbow which was difficult to observe through the haircoat. As the group began to move off, Wageni appeared to ambulate well, but twice was observed holding his right arm into his body in non-use.  He rested again while the juveniles and infant played.  And towards the end of the observation period, moved off another short distance and began feeding.

Beta silverback Wageni sustained a wound on the left side of his head.

The new group consisting of silverback Gushimira and the three females of Ugenda group (Kanama, Kurudi, and Inziza) was only 200 meters away from Ugenda.  After assessing Ugenda group, we went to assess Gushimira’s group from 9:55 – 10:50am. They were resting, and appeared in good health.  Although not visualized, Fossey Fund staff reported only one small wound on Gushimira’s right hand.  No other wounds were observed or reported.  The three females also had no injuries.

At 10:50am, another interaction occurred with Ugenda and Wageni approaching Gushimira.  The three adult females appeared to transfer back to Ugenda group, with infant Sabato rejoining his mother.  At 11:25am, when I left the group, Ugenda and Wageni were still chasing off Gushimira. No new injuries were subsequently reported.

Ugenda and Wageni pushing Gushimira away.

Update as of 2/23/13:

After several days of interactions, Gushimira has succeeded in taking females Kanama, Inziza, and Kurudi back and it appears that a new group has formed. The infants and juveniles remain with Ugenda and Wageni, but the pair of silverbacks have new wounds from the previous day’s interaction:

Fresh wounds on the back of Ugenda’s head.Fortunately, since infant Sabato has remained with Ugenda, (instead of following his mother to join Gushimira) we are hoping that he has escaped potential infanticide. Gorilla Doctors will continue to monitor the silverbacks’ wounds and ensure that they make a full recovery.


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