Following the disappearance of elderly silverback leader Cantsbee earlier this year, and whose death was confirmed in mid May, his group has undergone some significant changes. Historically, it was the largest of the known groups of mountain gorillas ever, once reaching a high of 65 members and has been followed by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund since its formation in 1993.
With Cantsbee gone, the group, named after former leader Pablo, had 32 members. And now, just a few months later, the group has split into two, with one of the younger silverbacks – 18-year-old Kureba — leading a “new” group of his own. Twenty-two-year-old silverback Gicurasi, who took over from Cantsbee, still leads the remaining members of the original group, which is now at its lowest level of 23, though this is still quite a large group.
Silverback Kureba’s new group also include younger silverback Ishavu, female Mudakama with two offspring, and female Ishyaka with her infant. As is common when groups change this much, there were some initial difficulties during the first few weeks of the new group’s formation. Initially, Mudakama and her two offspring, who are 7 and 4 years old, got separated and traveled on their own for three weeks.
At that point, our trackers were surprised to see Kureba leave the rest of his newly created group and reappear a few days later with Mudakama and her two offspring! It seems that he went looking for them and was able to bring them back to his new group.
Fossey Fund trackers are now monitoring Kureba’s group daily, in addition to the 8 other groups we currently monitor. However, it is not yet clear whether this will be a permanent split or whether they may one day reunite with the larger Pablo group. At this time, the two groups are quite some distance apart, so this may help lead to their full independence.
When groups split or form like this, the Fossey Fund always faces a logistical challenge, re-arranging our tracking staff so that all the groups and even the separated individuals are followed daily.
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