Gorilla families in Congo

Gorilla families in Congo

Gorilla families in Congo are 8 in numbers and there is hope for an increase, if peace and conservation efforts improve. The Democratic Republic of Congo is among the only three countries that have the mountain gorillas, in Virunga National Park. They are found within the virunga region that is shared among the three countries ie: Uganda, Rwanda and D.R.Congo.

Gorilla families in Congo
Gorilla trekking in Virunga National Park, Congo

Virunga National Park is formerly known as Albert National Park, located in the Albertine Rift Valley on the eastern edge of the Congo Basin. The Congo basin is home to the world’s second-largest tropical rainforest with the most bio-diverse protected area. This rainforest has over 1000 mammal species, birds, reptiles, and amphibians as well as some of the world’s oldest trees. The park was created in 1925 covering 7,900 sq-kms, and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. This is because of its rich diversity of habitats and being the third country with the rare/ endangered mountain gorillas. It is also known as the park of fire and ice for its diversity ranging from the Rwenzori peaks to savanna and volcanic plains.

Virunga national park contains two active volcanoes “Mount Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira”, and it’s the oldest wildlife protected area in Africa. It was created for research, preserve and protect the unique wildlife species as well as protecting the indigenous fruit gathering community.


Gorilla trekking

Gorilla trekking in Virunga national park usually takes between 2 – 5 hours, while hiking in the tropical rain-forest. Every morning, tourists gather at Bukima patrol post which is the park’s headquarters, for a briefing before the trekking starts. A maximum 8 people visit one gorilla family, and spend a maximum of 1 hour in their presence. Everyday, a total of 64 gorilla permits are available for visitors who are going to trek the 8 gorilla families.

Congo has about eight gorilla families that are already habituated and are open for tracking by tourists. These gorilla families include:

Bageni Gorilla family

  • umba Gorilla family
  • Rugendo Gorilla family
  • Lulengo Gorilla family
  • Munyaga Gorilla family
  • Nyakamwe Gorilla family
  • Mapuwa Gorilla family
  • Kabirizi Gorilla family


Know about each gorilla family in details.


Bageni Gorilla family has 26 members and it’s the largest among all of them in the park, with one dominant silverback called Bangeni. Due to this large number, there are frequent conflicts in the group on who should be the leading silverback. As Bangeni split from Kabirizi group, there are signs of this group splitting up in the nearby future. This gorilla group resides in the Bukima and Gatovu sections of the park.

Baby Gorilla with her mother


Humba Gorilla family is another group found in Bukima and Gatovu, with 10 members and one dominant silverback called Humba. It is one of the most loved gorilla group by the tourists. In 2014, this group has over 16 members before “Nyakamwe” the brother to Humba split and left with 10 members. Humba group was left with only 6 members, but they gave birth and also acquired some members from new-by families. In 1998, Humba split from his father “Rugendo”, with 6 members to start his own group. One of his brothers Senkwekwe was killed by gunmen in 2007, and this was a very sad moment to Humba.


Gorilla families in Congo


Rugendo Gorilla family is named after a great silverback called Rugendo who fathered many silverback that are leading other groups. Unfortunately Rugendo was killed during the fights between the Congloese army and Rwandan rebel groups. This led to the coming of Bukima as the new leading silverback to the Rugendo gorilla group. The group had 18 members, but Rugendo and his son Humba fought, and Humba left with 10 members, leaving only 8 members to Rugendo group. Rugendo group is one of the oldest groups that was habituated in 1989.

Gorilla families in Congo


Lulengo Gorilla family has 9 members under a silverback “Lulengo”, who came to power after loosing his father Rugabo. Rugabo was killed by poachers who move around with arms looking for primates for animal trade. Before, this group was called Musekura, and later changed to Lulengo, the current silverback, and also in memory of the park manager who died of a land-mine. This gorilla group is found in Jomba region near the border of Congo and Uganda.



Munyaga Gorilla family is made up of 7 members with one dominant silverback called Gasore. This group is found in Bukima sector near Goma, and is the last gorilla family to be discovered in 2008. This group was named after its former leader Munyaga who was succeeded by Mawazo, then the current Gasore. Bilali, a member of the Munyaga Gorilla family has a set of twins that are so loved by the tourists.

Gorilla family in Virunga National Park


Nyakamwe Gorilla family is made up of 11 members and also gets its name from the dominant silverback Nyakamwe. This Gorilla had conflicts with his brother Humba, and this resulted into a split, hence leading to formation of Nyakamwe group. It was formed in 2014, and its habituation is recent like that of Bageni family, which is the largest. Nyakamwe gorilla group has 2 juveniles as well as babies, and resides in Bukima area.

Gorilla families in Congo


Mapuwa Gorilla family is another large group that has 22 members with one dominant silverback Mvuyekure, 2 other silverbacks, 4 juveniles and 5 babies. The birth of these 5 babies has made the group expand in numbers, as well as the contribution of Mapuwa. Mapuwa is the former leader who split from his father Rugendo, with 2 female gorillas Jicho and Mafaze to form his own group “Mapuwa”. Mapuwa went through had time fighting with Pilipili one of the strong gorillas inorder to maintain his status “dominant Silverback”.

Gorilla families in Congo
Baby gorilla


Kabirizi Gorilla family is another gorilla group in the Virunga national park, in Bukima near Goma area. The group is said to have over 34 members under one dominant but humble silverback called Kabirizi. It gets its name from the former director of the ICCN who died from a deadly car accident. Kabirizi group was initially known as “Ndungutse”, who was the leader of the group, who unfortunately died in 1997. His death came about during the crossfire shootings between the Congo forces and Rwandan rebels forces in their area.

Ndungutse also took power from his father Zunguruka who instead died of old age in the forests. All these occarance led to the rise of a wild gorilla “Kabirizi” to take power and lead the group to date. Sources say, this group is facing a change in leadership or a split, due to a new promising silverback called Masibo who undermines Kabirizi’s leadership.

There are also more reasons to believe that the number of gorillas in Virunga National park is yet to increase.

There are some gorilla trekking safari packages/ itinerary available to give you a picture of your safari.

5 days gorilla safari


Gorilla trekking is done all year round, but most people usually want to know the best time to do gorilla trekking.



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