Fossey Fund field staff reported a high number of interactions among the mountain gorilla groups we monitor in Rwanda during the past month and these are important because they can lead to injuries and changes in the group composition. Sometimes, these interactions also result in the transfer of adult females from one group to another, and several such cases were seen recently. Occasionally, a mother who transfers will leave behind a young offspring, and this is what happened last month when mother Ikaze transferred, leaving her young son, Masunzu, behind in his original group.
Masunzu is almost 3 years old, just barely at the age for weaning, so this is a precarious time for him. Luckily, the silverback of his group – Isabukuru – has taken over as surrogate, shares his night nest with little Masunzu, and provides warmth, grooming and protection. Isabukuru has experience helping lone youngsters and even has a second youngster sharing his night nest at this time.
But since gorilla groups travel every day, sometimes this help is not enough. Today, this group began to travel across the Susa river, but Masunzu failed to cross. Another young male stayed behind with him for a while and two other gorillas stayed close to the river on the other side, waiting for them to cross. These two then crossed back and displayed at young Masunzu, but then left again.
After this, Masunzu tried several times to get across the river on his own and after about 30 minutes he finally made it, while four other gorillas stared at him. After he crossed, young male Icyororo gave him a hug and picked him up to continue their travel.
Thank you to our research assistant Eric Ndayishimiye for getting these great photos!