Habinyanja Gorilla Family

Habinyanja Gorilla Family is one of the three habituated gorilla groups in Buhoma sector of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The other two group are Mubare and Rushegura family. This group is quite distance from the park headquarters to the starting point as you may sometimes have to drive for about 45 minutes to arrive at Nyamishaba village trailhead.

The habituation of Habinyanja Family started in 1997 but was first tracked by tourists in 1999. This Group stems its name from a local Rukiga word ‘Nyanja’ referring to a place with water. The reason it was named so is because, its members were first seen close to the swamp ponds in Bwindi Impenetrable forest. This is one of the most liked groups in Buhoma area and many favour it for gorilla trekking.

Some of the outstanding individual of Habinyanja group include Rwansigazi, Makara, Nyamuhango, Maraya, Nabukye, Binyonko, Kisho, Elsa, Rugyendi, Hakato, Hamusini, Bangenyi and Gacyaro. Power struggles, self-centeredness and intrigues are some of the characteristics of this gorilla unit. Most members advance individual selfish interests at the cost of the group goals.

During the habituation process, Mugurisi, locally meaning Old Man in the Rukiga language was the governing silverback despite his old age status. Mugirisi was authoritative to a large group of 30 affiliates in his family compared to other habituated or non-habituated gorilla groups. After some time, Mugurisi died causing succession clashes as the relatives fought for who could be the most suited heir in the family. There were four grown up silverbacks waiting in the succession queue to their father. These silver backs included Rwansigazi (The youthful boy), Mwirima (darkness) and Makara (Charcoal) among others.

At first, Rwansigazi was meant to succeed Mukurisi even though Mwirima had similarly fully grown up stronger and therefore wanted the family leadership too. For a long time, Rwansigazi and Mwirima run power together but as time passed, disagreements emerged.

Irreconcilable differences between the two brothers later brought the division of Habinyanja, the once a huge family. It is on record that two gorilla groups were created based on movement preferences. And in 2002, the family members who favored moving long distances followed Rwansigazi and the ones who preferred short-range distances stayed with Mwirima. And there were not scuffles recorded at the time of the division. The gorilla unit that stayed with Rwansigazi upheld the label Habinyanja and the one that quit came to be called Rushegura.



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