Silverback Kabirizi’s status as the dominant silverback of his group looked to be reaffirmed a few weeks ago, but silverback Bageni’s pursuit of dominance has proven to be unrelenting. According to Southern Sector Warden, Innocent Mburanumwe, and his second in command, Sekibibi Bareke, Bageni has once again challenged Kabirizi’s rule over Virunga’s largest mountain gorilla family (37 members). This time, Bageni appears to have succeeded in splitting the group. Likely realizing that putting distance between Kabirizi and himself was a good idea, Bageni quickly led his newly formed family of 19 (including 8 of the original family’s adult females) 11 kilometers away. With Kabirizi in his rear view mirror, Bageni could take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy time with his newly formed family, right?
Silverback Bageni’s new group of females didn’t escape the watchful eyes of solitary silverback Mukunda
Wrong. The presence of eight adult females in Bageni’s group almost immediately caught the attention of solitary silverback Mukunda, who, being on his own, wants nothing more than to build his own family. The only way to realize that goal in this instance, however, was to square off with Bageni — and square off they did.
Deep arm wound inflicted upon Bageni during fight with Mukunda
Mukunda’s right hand and foot after his encounter with Bageni
When the dust settled, both silverbacks had their fair share of wounds. Although Bageni sustained a deep wound to his arm, elbow, and hand, and was struggling to eat, he was still able to keep Mukunda from splitting off the females from his newly formed group. Fortunately, no babies were trampled in the course of the fight, which is often the case.
With Chief Veterinarian Dr. Eddy Syaluha still traveling back from Kinshasa, MGVP’s Dr. Martin Kabuyaya was called to assess the severity of their wounds. Dr. Martin concluded that both silverbacks were likely to recover on their own and that it was best to monitor them rather than conduct an intervention. If either gorilla begins showing signs of infection, vets will quickly intervene. Male gorillas often die from the wounds sustained in their battles for dominance, but thanks to close monitoring by rangers and the fast intervention by Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) vets, males from the habituated families stand a good chance of survival.
For now, it looks as though Mukunda will continue living the life of a bachelor. The search for Virunga’s last missing solitary silverback, Ruzirabwoba continues…