Two gorilla births witnessed by one Fossey Fund tracker

February 13, 2015

Two gorilla births witnessed by one Fossey Fund tracker

Female mountain gorillas have an average of three to four infants during their lifetime. Even though we monitor gorillas every day, it is very rare that our staff will actually witness a gorilla birth taking place. But Fossey Fund data technician Antoine Sekabanza has had the rare experience of seeing two gorillas give birth: Imvune with infant Ndizeye in 2012, and Kurinda delivering her second infant on Nov. 17, 2014.

Kurinda infant and NdizeyeI feel lucky to witness this event, which is rare to see among mountain gorillas,” Sekabanza said. “I realized how much they resemble humans during such a painful but rewarding event.”

On the afternoon of Nov. 17, Sekabanza and trackers heard screaming as members of Ntambara’s gorilla group were moving downhill. This is one of the groups the Fossey Fund monitors daily. While the group was moving, Kurinda kept alternating her stance from sitting to standing, which reminded Sekabanza of the behavior mother Imvune exhibited before she gave birth to Ndizeye. He decided to keep following her closely.

During the next five minutes, the gorillas moved downhill 200 meters. Whenever Kurinda stopped, the other gorillas stopped too. At 1:30 p.m., Sekabanza saw Kurinda crouch down, and she gave birth shortly after. Members of Ntambara’s group seemed to be interested in the birth too, with young gorillas approaching and showing some display behaviors, and silverback Ntambara performing a non-directional chest beat. About 10 minutes after the birth, the group began moving downhill again. Kurinda quickly cleaned the infant and moved with them.

The Fossey Fund feels fortunate to be able to learn from these observations and for Sekabanza to have seen such a rare occurrence twice. Sadly, Kurinda’s infant did not survive, having died during an interaction between Ntambara’s group and Gushimira’s group at the end of January. Our trackers did not witness the death, though did see the beginning of the group interaction earlier in the day.