Three Silverbacks, One Happy Gorilla Family

If you are advised by the Gorilla Highlands team, your gorilla tracking adventure will most likely introduce you to the Nyakagezi family in Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. Forget what Google tells you, these friends of ours haven’t left Uganda for a decade! They are usually found in the open and not too far from the park gate, and that’s a double win for sure — but let us tell you some more about what makes them unique …

Nyakagezi is the only habituated gorilla family of Mgahinga, composed of 9 individuals: 3 silverbacks, 2 adult females, 1 blackback, 2 juveniles and 1 infant (born in the bonanza of the pandemic, on 2 September 2020). It is not common to find a group with more than one silverback but Nyakagezi has three of them! Normally, silverbacks fight for superemacy in the family and the defeated ones tend to leave the group but in Nyakagezi there’s unusual harmony.

This is the oldest known habituated gorilla group in Uganda, with a big home range that cuts across three national parks in three different countries of the Virunga volcanoes. However, in 2011 the group decided their preferred home was to be Mgahinga, and that is the case to date. They seem to love the secondary zone of the park, the regenerated area that was previously encroched by people.

Bamboo is the one special delicacy for the gorillas of Nyakagezi. They usually feed on bamboo shoots for a period of 3-4 months (mainly August, September, October and November). During this time they compete with golden monkeys for the same treat, justifying the slogan that Mgahinga is “where gold meets silver”.

A visitor’s one-hour gorilla tracking experience with Nyakagezi group is memorable because they are a jolly, friendly and entertaining bunch. You may even be shocked when your viewing time is over! In the photo by Clovis Turyamubona (ecological monitoring ranger) the youngest silverback Rukundo and the blackback Mutagamba look back at the hairless primates who have come to pay them a visit.