Habinyanja Gorilla Group

Habinyanja Gorilla Group, a Gorilla Family in Buhoma Sector.

Habinyanja Gorilla Group is one of the 4 habituated gorilla families available for trekking in Buhoma sector of Bwindi. Buhoma is one of the four gorilla trekking regions of Bwindi. These include, Buhoma itself in the north of the park, Ruhija Sector in the east plus Rushaga and Nkuringo Sector both in the south of the park.

Habinyanja Gorilla Family was habituated in 1997 and the first group of tourists tracked this gorilla family in 1999. This group is one of the several gorilla families in Uganda habituated for trekking. Habinyanja group gets the name from a local language, the Rukiga “Nyanja” referring to a “place with water”. The explanation for this name is that the gorilla group was first seen nearby marsh ponds in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Some of the prominent gorilla members of the family include Maraya, Kisho, Makara, Rwansigazi, Nabukye, Nyamuhango, Binyonko, Rugyendi, Hakato, Gacyaro, Elsa, Bangenyi and Hamusini. Habinyanja group is a unit characterized by power fights, conspiracies and selfish members who put personal interests before the family interests and agenda. This has affected the group over time.

When Habinyanja group was habituated, Mugurisi, meaning an “Old man” in local Rukiga language was the leading silverback despite his advanced age. Interestingly, at the time of habituating the group, Mugurisi was impressively commanding a huge family of 30 members. This was a big number when put on a weighing scale with other gorilla groups in Bwindi forest.  As years elapsed, Mugurisi died due to old age, a death that brought succession disagreements as the brothers started fighting for family head leadership. Mugurusi left four grown up silverbacks standing greedily in the line of his succession. Some of the conflicting brothers included Rwansigazi, locally meaning, “The youthful boy”, Mwirima (darkness) and Makara (Charcoal).

Succession Battles 

At first, Rwansigazi was slated for becoming heir to Mugurisi but at the time the father’s demise, Mwirima had correspondingly matured stronger and felt he was fit for family leadership. It is on this ground that for many years, Mwirima and Rwansigazi held equal powers in succession leadership but later this trend changed.

Whereas the Habinyanja family stood solidly united under the duo leadership for some time, there reached a time when the two could not co-exist as equal heads. And due to mismatched differences in the midst of the two silverback brothers, separation of this bigger group became inevitable. It is said that Mwirima, just like his late dad Mugurisi favored moving in a shorter distance radius whereas Rwansigazi was exploratory and preferred going on longer distances.

It is said that due to such incompatible differences, the two silverback brothers separated the family into two and each went with members that favored his likes and preferences. In the year 2002, the group separated with members liking adventuring distant areas followed Rwansigazi and those for shorter distances stayed behind with Mwirima. Fortunately, the group divided peaceful and no fights were reported during this family division. Rwansigazi and his subordinate members maintained the name Habinyanja and those that left with Mwirima came to be named Rushegura gorilla group.

To trek gorillas in Buhoma sector either with Habinyanja group or any other, you need to book a gorilla permit to access the park. Gorilla permit booking can be done with you tour operator some good months in advance before the gorilla trip. A Uganda gorilla permit is currently at USD 600, a price that is end in June 2020. From July 2020, Uganda Wildlife Authority has already announced that it would increase the gorilla permit price up to USD 700.

Other Families in Buhoma Sector habituated for Gorilla Trekking include:-