Bwindi forest is one of Uganda’s biggest forest conservation area covering an area of 325 km². It also one of Africa’s oldest forest dating back to before the Pleistocene ice age thus making it over 25000 years old. It was proclaimed a forest reserve in 1932, and took a name, bwindi impenetrable forest reserve, gazetted as a national park in 1991 and declared a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site in 1994. During all this time it has accumulated a remarkable biodiversity of species that include 350 birds, 310 butterflies, 200 trees, 51 reptiles, 88 moths, and 120 mammals.
Some of the Mammals in bwindi included elephants, chimpanzees gorillas pigs, duikers and monkey’s
Gorilla tracking in bwindi is conducted in four stations/sectors ie. Buhoma, Ruhija, Rushaga and Nkuringo. A total of 19 gorilla families have been fully habituated for tourism in Uganda. 18 of these families are found in bwindi while one (nyakagezi family) is found in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park on the Uganda Rwanda Congo border.
Bwindi gorilla families include; Mubare,Habinyanja, Rushegura, Katwe, Oruzogo, Bitukura, Kyaguliro, Mukiza, Nshongi, Bweza, Kahungye, Busingye, Mucunguzi, Mishaya, Bikingi, Nkuringo, Bushaho and Christmas
This was the first area to be opened to tourism and also hosts the headquarters of the park. It has 4 gorilla families.
Mubare gorilla family
The oldest group with 11 members. It was also the first ugandan gorilla family to be habituated between 1991 and 1993. It was named after the stunning mubare hills where the group was first sported. Originally it was a big group consisting of more than 18 members headed by a dominant silverback Ruhondeza. However as the Ruhondeza grew older he was unable to effectively defend his family because of old age which took much of his strength. He therefore lost many members due to raids and kidnapping by the wild gorilla groups, death, defections and infanticides by Ruhondeza of young ones to prevent any competition from them when they grow up. As age took its tall Ruhondeza found himself unable to fight off kidnaps and defections and by 2009 the group had only five members left. Ruhondeza died in June 2012 aged 50 years and was succeeded by oldest son kanyonyi. Kanyonyi tried keep the group together and also to get other members to add to the group and by 2013 he had added other 4 members to the group. Kanyonyi died in 2017 aged 21 after a double disaster that befell him. First he fell off the tree and badly injured himself and when he was recovering he was attacked by alone silverback Malaya which wanted to take over his group. In his weak state he tried to fight back but was badly defeated and sustained serious body injuries that evetually took his life. Malaya is now the leader of the group.
Habinyanja gorilla family
The group has 17 family members with Makara as the dominant silverback. The family was habituated in 1997. The family is named habinyanja because the family was first discovered near a swamp hence the name habinyanja meaning a swampy area. The stubborn Malaya which killed kanyonyi was a member of this group.
Rushegura gorilla family
Has 15 members led by kabukojo the dominant silverback who succeeded another silverback mwirima who died in March 2014. The name rushegura comes from a tree species that grows in their home range Ebishegura. Its a calm group that often visit the bwindi lodges gardens and is the generally the easiest the group to track
Katwe gorilla family
A new gorilla family with 7 family members. It was opened to visitors on 20 August 2018. The group is composed of 1 dominant silverback katwe, 2 babies and 4 adult females.
This is another gorilla tracking station in East of bwindi forest with 4 gorilla families
Bitukura gorilla family
Has 14 members that including 4 silverbacks; the retired karamuzi and two others rukumu and mugisha all peacefully living together and submissive to the dominant silverback ndahura. Its named after the bitukura river along which the family foliages. Its habituation started in 2007 and by 2008 the family was ready for tracking. The family therefore has the record of the shortest learning period. Normally it takes 2 – 3 years to habituate a gorilla family but for bitukura it only took 15 months
Has 17 members including 2 silverbacks. The group was named after the local name of the common plant oruzogo in their home range of this family. Bakwate is the dominant silverback since habituation in 2008 and kagaanga a young silverback is a second in command. The group is popular with tourists because of the playful energy exhibited by juveniles and toddlers in this family. The family was opened to tourists in 2011. Its led by silverback bakwate, 2 silverbacks, 5 adult females, 2 sub adult, 1 juvenile and 5 infants
Kyaguliro gorilla family
The family has 9 members led by a dominant silverback rukara. Originally habituated in 1995 with 21 family members. Habituated as a research group by the German max Planck institute of evolution anthropology. The group suffered a major tragedy when its leader rukina was struck dead by lightening on April 7 2015 after leading the family for 11 years . After the of rukina, the group was taken over by inexperienced young silverback mukiza. However the family was invaded by an immigrant silverback rukara from the bitukura group that started challenging mukiza’s authority over the group. Eventually in may 2016, the family was split into groups. ie. The Kyaguliro family (Kyaguliro A) with 9 members led by silverback rukara and mukiza family (Kyaguliro B) with 12 members led by silverback mukiza. Presently the two families continue to stay with in close proximity sometimes crossing over of family members.
Mukiza gorilla family
The family has 12 members including 8 adults. Its a splinter group of the Kyaguliro family that was led by silverback rukina. Rukina leadership in Kyaguliro family was always contested by the young silverback mukiza and as expected after the tragic death of rukina, mukiza took over the family. However his authority was short lived as an immigrant silverback rukara from bitukura invaded the group and started contesting mukiza authority and soon took over a section of the family members. However mukiza remained with the majority of group members forming loyal that was named after him
This sector has the highest number of the gorilla families. Six gorilla families are fully habituated and open for tourism in this area
Nsongi gorilla family
Has 7 members led by the silverback bweza. Originally was a big group with 18 members and was opened for tourism in 2009 with much fanfare and celebrities from all over the world. But due to infighting with in the group, the family split into families. ie. Nshongi with 7 members led by silverback bweza and bweza family with 12 members led by silverback kakono.
Bweza gorilla family
It has 12 members. It was formed in 2013 formed out infighting within the nshongi group. It is led by silverback kakono
Has 12 members led by the dominant silverbacks mishaya a known fighter. Its composed of members who split from nshongi group and from other unhabituated families
Composed of 18 members led by dominant silverback rumanzi. It has other two silverbacks rwigi the oldest, ruzika the youngest all are loyal to the dominant silverback rumanzi. The family also has 3 blackbacks,3 adult females, 3 sub adults, 3 juveniles and 2 infants
Busingye gorilla family
The family has 10 members with 3 infants and 1 sub adult. It splint from kahungye family led by silverback busingye
Mucunguzi gorilla family
Has 8 members. It was formed by a solitary silverback mucunguzi which was chased from bweza family. After serious fighting in bweza family where mucunguzi was third in command, he left the family and started living a lonely life. After some time,he attacked bikingi family fought with the dominant silverback and managed to and grabbed some of its female members forming mucunguzi family
This lies in the southern part of bwindi with four gorilla families
Nkuringo gorilla family
Has 12 members led by silverback rafiki. It was habituated in 1997 and was the first gorilla family to be habituated in this area and the first gorilla family to record gorilla twins (December 2004) in the whole of bwindi conservation area. Its composed of 2 silverbacks, 1 black back, 2 adult female, 2 sub adults, 3 juveniles and 2 infants. This may be the toughest family to track due to tough terrain however those who have taken it have love it
Bikingi gorilla family
Has 15 membranes led by silverback bikingi. Located in rushaga sector, was originally used for the gorilla habituation experience. Composed of members who Split from mishaya family and others from unhabituated gorilla families. Its has 1 silverback, 5 adults females, 2 sub adults, 2 juveniles 5 infants. Habituation started in 2012
Bushaho gorilla family
Has 11 members led by the silverback bahati. Composed of the members that split from nkuringo group and from unhabituated gorilla families in 2012. Its named bushaho after the top hill where it foliages most. Composed of 1 silverback, 1 black back, 4 adult females, 2 sub adult females and 3 infants
Chrismas gorilla family
Has 9 members headed by silverback Christmas believed to have been born on Christmas. It has 3 adult females, 3 blackbacks, 2 babies