Two silverbacks fighting over a female

A female gorilla who lives in one of the mountain gorilla groups monitored daily by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund has become the object of intense interest by two silverbacks in her group. Twelve-year-old Kubana is one of three females in her group, and a point of contention between silverbacks Pato and Urwibutso.

Kubana and UrwibutsoSince the beginning of July, the two silverbacks have engaged in violent fights with each other, in reaction to the attempts of one or the other to approach Kubana. Our staff assumes that it is Kubana’s reproductive receptiveness that is attracting them, but in this group there is another problem — a lack of clear silverback dominance. Since the death of the former dominant silverback in this group (Turakora) in March, the two remaining silverbacks have not yet established a dominance hierarchy. That means it is not clear which one of them should have greater “access” to Kubana.

Unfortunately, this competition for Kubana has resulted in several injuries for the silverbacks, and no actual mating opportunities for either of them!

Submitted by Veronica Vecellio, Karisoke Research Center

Photo by Jordi Galbany