Leadership in Gorilla Families
Sharing a moment with mountain gorillas in the wilds of Africa’s rainforests is absolutely magical. Mountain gorillas are uniquely characterized by their sheer beauty and brawn, soulful brown eyes, their astonishingly human-like expressions, or their extraordinarily gentle demeanors. An encounter with them lasts only one precious hour but with an extended experience in an exciting evolution in gorilla tracking. We explore leadership in the gorilla families.
Mountain gorillas with human-like uncanny traits also have an elder/head in their family called a silverback and have an organized structure of leadership in the gorilla families. This silverback is the leader of the gorilla family. The palsy-walsy groups are headed by the main dominant silverback. This silverback is a mature male and is the one who selects places for the group to eat and sleep in. He is entitled to several privileges, among which are entitlement to feed first. However, in exchange for the privileges, he safeguards all the family members from any form of harm. If the group is threatened, the heavyweight silverback will defend them to death if it’s the last resort. Failure to defend his family or submitting to defeat from the stronger opponents has dire consequences. These implications include; losing dominance over the family, grabbing the family members, lose his females to the ones who defeated him among many other consequences.
In their leadership structure, Mountain gorillas maintain the hierarchy of command (the protocol). A clear hierarchy is importantly observed within the gorilla family. At the top of the hierarchy is the dominant silverback who enjoys the highest rank. The adult females rule over the younger ones. The silverback’s highest status is achieved based on several traits. For one to lead the family, the adult male gorilla should be big and large enough in size. Male mountain gorillas can weigh up to 200 kg and can reach a height of up to 1.7m when standing upright. Besides strength, they also have to prove their experience and abilities. It is their duty to protect their families from any danger and intruders. It is not difficult to figure out where the name silverback originates. Around the age of 12 years, male gorillas develop light grey hair on their back, giving them a ‘silver back’.
After the first group was habituated in Bwindi, the family group named Mubare was led by Ruhondeza. After consecutively defeating him and grabbing his family members, he left the family, and his son; Kanyonyi took over leadership of the family in June 2012 after the death of his father. Even before assuming this position, Kanyonyi fought those who annexed his father’s family.
Nyakagezi gorilla family is led by Mark who is the dominant silverback. He took over from Bugingo, who is still alive and the oldest family member. Kahungye family is led by Rumanzi who has been dominant since habituation. This must be a dictator! In the Bweza family, Kakano is the dominant silverback in the group. Kyaguliro is currently under the contentious leadership of young Mukiza, whose authority is being contested by an immigrant silverback from the Bitukura family. For the Nkuringo family, Rafiki was the dominant silverback for almost a decade. Rushegura family is led by Kabukojo following the death of his predecessor; Mwirima in March 2014. Kabukojo has a younger brother Kalembezi who helps him co-lead the family and other silverbacks.
For you to see the dominant silverback and his family of mountain gorillas, kindly contact Jewel Safaris for the ultimate gorilla trekking safari that will give you the best opportunity to see this gigantic systematic leader of the gorilla family that you will track. What an experience you will accrue as you see the main man of the family acting with gentility, smartness, and diplomacy. Everything done around him is conducted with a lot of respect.