Virunga national park stands out as the oldest national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a containment zone and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to protect the endangered mountain gorillas. It has a vast composition of tropical rainforests which also have a mixture of bamboo on which these awesome creatures feed. The national park has some highlands too on which this vegetation grows. These highlands include both active volcanoes and non-active volcanoes.

The national park also has plains that are composed of mainly savanna vegetation and some wetlands. This in turn has created a rich ecosystem for the habitation of these mountain gorillas. Mountain gorillas that inhabit the Virunga National Park are free and open to mountain gorilla trekking tours and habituation experience. The habituation exercise takes a lot of time to perfect and includes research activities in order to make these primates human friendly. This activity has been successful for 10 families that are now open to tourism.

  1. Rugendo Gorilla Family.

It is registered among the oldest mountain gorilla families in Virunga national park. It attained its name from its former leading silverback that was known as ‘Rugendo’. Sadly, he passed on and the family is now under the leadership of the silverback known as Bukima. The process of habituating this gorilla family was completed in 1989.

This gorilla family has a fascinating history and it’s documented that its former leader Rugendo gave birth to a son known as Humba with whom he fell out in 1998. Humba went on to break his way from this family and formed his own, which is presently known as the Humba Gorilla Family. As of 1997, the Rugendo Gorilla Family was comprised of 18 mountain gorillas. Presently, this is one of the known fast-growing mountain gorilla families in Virunga National Park.

  • Humba Gorilla Family.

This mountain gorilla family attained its name from its dominant silverback named Humba. As earlier noted, Humba was a son of Rugendo (the dominant silverback from the Rugendo Gorilla Family). The Humba Gorilla Family is located in the Bukima sector. The family is often regarded as one of the most loved by the tourists who visit the National Park because of its general calmness. It consists of 10 mountain gorillas. Humba is the brother to the deceased silverback that was known as Senkwekwe (he died of bullets from unknown killers in 2007). Humba has kept grip of the family leadership without any known chaos within the family members.

  • Kabirizi Gorilla Family.

This gorilla family’s name was Ndungutse Gorilla Family. It had been known so from its former dominant silverback known as Ndungutse. Ndungutse was murdered in 1997. His death came as a consequence of being shot and killed during one of the conflicts between the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and a rebel group in the Zaire jungle. Shortly after his death, the family was named Kabirizi.

The name was from the deceased director of the ICCN who died from a car accident in earlier years. The family’s current leader is also named Kabirizi and the family has 19 members. The family can be trekked in the Bukima Patrol Post.

  • Mapuwa Gorilla Family.

It obtained its name from its former leader who was known as ‘Mapuwa’. Just like the silverback Humba, Mapuwa is also a son of the silverback Rugendo. He parted ways with his initial family in 1988. At the time, he broke away with two female gorillas known by the names of Mafaze and Jicho.

He was so strong that he always picked fights with other families and won the members of the silverbacks he won against. An example is when he took every member away from the silverback Pilipili who lost a fight to Mapuwa. The family is currently under the leadership of the silverback Mvuyekure. It’s located in Jomba. The family has 22 members.

  • Lulengo Gorilla Family.

This family is located in Jomba. It was formerly named Musekura. This family’s name was changed to Lulengo to honor the memory of a director of Virunga National Park who died due to a landmine explosion.

Consequently, just like the family name, the current dominant silverback of this family is known as Lulengo. He originated from the Rugabo Gorilla Family that was named after his father. His former family is registered as the first gorilla family to be habituated in the Mikeno sector. The Lulengo Gorilla Family is made up of 9 members.

  • Nyakamwe Gorilla Family.

Its founding leader was named Nyakamwe. He is always remembered for his peace. It is one of the largest gorilla families in the national park and equally fast-growing in its member composition. It is also one of the recently habituated families in the national park.

  • Munyaga Gorilla Family.

As a common practice, this gorilla family attained its name from its former leader Munyaga. Munyaga came from the Rugendo Gorilla Family. The Munyaga Gorilla Family inhabits the Bukima sector. The habituation processes to this gorilla family commenced in 2008. One of the most attractive members of this family is the silverback known as Kadogo. He’s famous because of his bald head. The current dominant silverback in this family is known as Gasore. The family has 7 members.

8. Bageni Gorilla Family.

This family is led by the dominant silverback Bageni. Just like Nyakamwe Gorilla Family, it’s also one of the recently habituated families in the park. It’s comprised of 26 members. This family is famous for its power struggles amongst the silverbacks therein.