January 30, 2013
News from Four Gorilla Groups
After a relatively calm month in the field, the gorillas have again given us much to report. Today, Jan. 30, Ntambara’s team of trackers found the female Pasika, her two offspring, and Bishushwe’s juvenile son, Igisubizo, with Ntambara’s group, a sign that the two groups are indeed merging, five days after the death of dominant silverback Urugamba. Research Assistants Didier Abavandimwe and Jean Paul Hirwa both joined Ntambara’s team with the group today and noted that all of the members of Urugamba’s group rested in close proximity to silverback Ugutsinda. They did not see any social interactions between the individuals, but given that it was raining and hailing all morning, this was not surprising. Abavandimwe did note, however, that infant Turate separated from his mother, Pasika, a bit in order to follow Ugutsinda, which is a positive sign.
Female Bishushwe and her infant were the only gorillas from Urugamba’s group not found with Ntamabara’s group today. Yesterday, she still remained at a distance from the group, so we were not surprised that she had decided not to join them. She is probably trying to protect her young infant from infanticide by staying away from the silverbacks. Given that she has lost an infant to infanticide before, she is probably hyper-aware of the threat. Although the team looked around the area for Bishushwe, they were not able to find her. Tomorrow, a special team will focus on locating her.
In other news, Giraneza’s group was seen Jan. 29 by tracker Avit Nkurikiyumukiza from Bwenge’s group. We lost Giraneza’s group in Sept. of last year, and although we kept looking for them, we saw them only once briefly in November. We were happy to see that Giraneza was still with both females Nyandwi and Taraja. However, Nyandwi seems to have injured her left arm, as she holds it close to her chest and does not put any weight on it. Veterinarian Jean Felix Kinani from Gorilla Doctors will go with a team to assess her injury tomorrow. Research Assistant Samedi Mucyo, who joined Giraneza’s team today, said that the group seemed fine otherwise. At first, they pig-grunted at observers, but eventually settled down and ignored the human presence.
On the way out of the forest from visiting Giraneza’s group, the team found fresh gorilla trails. In an effort to see whose trails they were, the team made a detour to follow them. When they got within 30 meters of the gorillas, however, they were charged by a silverback. They could see that another gorilla was with him, but due to the dense vegetation, they could not identify either the silverback or the other gorilla. Back on the trails, they encountered dung that appeared to be from a female gorilla. Given the temperament of the silverback and that he may be traveling with only one female, we suspect that Giraneza’s team may have encountered Inshuti and his only female, Shangaza. This would be an incredible coincidence because Inshuti’s group was lost in July 2012 and has a history that is quite entwined with Giraneza’s group. Both of Giraneza’s females were once part of Inshuti’s group. Another special team will go to look for the two unidentified gorillas tomorrow to confirm whether they are indeed Inshuti and Shangaza.