Fri, March 27, 2020

Pablo’s Group

Fact 1: Pablo’s group has always been a record breaker in many ways. 

It has existed for more than 25 years, and reached the record-breaking size of 65 gorillas in 2006, which was significantly larger than any mountain gorilla group ever observed. However, there were too many gorillas for one dominant silverback to maintain. Thus ensued a sequence of events in which other silverbacks in the group were able to gain some power and attract enough females to form their own groups. Some of the silverbacks did this by living on the periphery of the group as solitary males hoping to attract females, while other males simply split from the group with other gorillas, forming a new, intact group right away. 

Fact 2: Pablo’s group has a quiet alliance with Musilikale’s group

Fossey Fund trackers recently observed that Pablo’s group is often in close proximity with another group, led by silverback Musilikale. This group was actually formed as a split from Pablo’s group in 2013. Interestingly, the proximity of the two groups has not resulted in any direct interaction between members from either group. It seems they are avoiding conflict – or, in effect, creating alliances. This is unusual and fascinating behavior to observe, and we assume that the familiarity among the group members is one reason for their peaceful co-existence. In fact, all the silverbacks are sons of the late leader Cantsbee. 

Last year we witnessed several occasions in which Pablo’s group and Musilikale’s group were less than 100 meters apart, yet there was no sign of interaction or even vocalizations between the two. On one occasion, female Mukecuru transferred from Musilikale’s group to Pablo’s group quietly and without any group instability. Such a peaceful transfer is quite rare!

Fact 3: Pablo’s group has a mother and daughter pair raising their respective offspring at the same time!

A mother and child raising offspring together in the same group doesn’t happen often, and we are lucky to have the chance to record instances of cooperation. Gutangara, who is 35, and her 11-year-old daughter Shishikara both gave birth in the spring of 2019, only one month apart. The two have always had a close relationship and already spent a lot of time together, but seeing them both with their newborns is extra fascinating. Gutangara is an experienced mother of seven (four of whom are in Pablo’s group, while the others have grown up and moved out). Shishikara, however, is a brand new mother.

The infants often try to engage with each other when their moms sit together, and the two adults will often groom each other’s infants.

Fact 4: Gicurasi is the dominant male of Pablo’s group, but he has multiple subordinate silverbacks!

The current second ranking silverback in the group is 16-year-old Dushishoze, also a son of Cantsbee. He has the trust of Gicurasi and plays an important role as a sentry for detecting dangers, and being second in command when facing an intrusion. Otherwise, he spends time on the periphery of the group and is always last when the group is moving, which is not unusual for a non-dominant silverback. He also doesn’t have much access to females. 

Third ranking silverback is 14  -year-old Ubwuzu, a grandson of Cantsbee, who is less shy and a very active subordinante. His good relationship with Gicurasi allows him to show off to group females.

Number four silverback is another son of Cantsbee, 13-year-old Agahebuzo who is just maturing from adolescence. He seems very aware that there are three silverbacks above him and that he needs to respect them. A while back, he made some challenges to Ubwuzu but lost, mainly due to Ubwuzu’s relationship with dominant silverback Gicurasi. Now Agahebuzo is calmer and has learned to accept his rank. 

Fact 5: Before Gicurasi, Pablo and Cantsbee led the group

Surprisingly, Pablo, the gorilla the group was named after,  was only the dominant male of his group for one year! After a year as dominant male, Pablo yielded dominance to silverback Cantsbee. Pablo then stayed in the group as second in command and remained well respected. While he wasn’t dominant for very long, Pablo is one of the best-known silverbacks that have been tracked by Karisoke throughout its history. 

Cantsbee had one of the longest reigns as a silverback – 20 years – before his son, and current Pablo Group leader, Gicurasi, became the dominant male. Cantsbee was so successful that he saw the group grow to a record 65 gorillas, and sired more offspring than any other male we’ve documented. Cantsbee was a very impressive and successful leader, and was able to maintain dominance and respect throughout most of his adult life. Our trackers described him as strong but gentle, charismatic, and authoritative. His clear leadership meant he was respected by all members of the group.

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