By Dr. Martin Kabuyaya.
On April 12th, we headed into the Mikeno sector to assess the health of our gorilla families. We left early, but apparently it was too early because the first family we came upon, the Rugendo family, was still in their beds. Adult females Lubutu and Janja and their children were alongside the current leader of the group, silverback Bukima. Silverback Kongomani, who has been contesting Bukima’s rule and at one point even took over leadership of the group for a short time, was some distance away from the main group. Baseka, the other silverback in the group, was even farther away. As we scanned the group for any health issues, blackback Noel began playing with Bilali’s baby, Mastaki. Silverback Baseka decided he wanted to join in the play and approached the group, but was quickly headed off by a fierce looking and growling Bukima. Aside from the natural power struggles within the group, all eight to be in good health.
Kabirizi juveniles having a good time.
Dr. Eddy Syaluha (also from Gorilla Doctors) and his ranger support team went in search of the Kabirizi family at 7:00 am on the same morning, but had to walk all the way to the Gatovu area and then up the flanks of Mt. Mikeno to find the family. Some of the worst fighting of the current conflict has occurred in this area. According to Dr. Eddy, when they finally arrived at 10:00 am, they found the family eating wild celery, Drogesta, and Urera. One sub-adult was enjoying the roots from a tree that had recently fallen. The two females and their babies looked happy and healthy, as did the young silverback, Masibo. Hopefully, Masibo will help protect the group because the aging Kabirizi has now lost all his canines, which are critical to being able to defend against challengers. Naturally, we all wonder how much longer Kabirizi can maintain control.
Adult females in the Kabirizi group looking quite serious.
Young silverback, Masibo