A species endemic to the Virunga Massif, Golden Monkeys are found in the Volcanoes National Park, in the Mgahinga National Park, in the Gishwati forest and in Virunga National Park in Congo.
Golden monkeys live in families of 100 to 125 individuals, including one dominant male, females, juveniles and babies. Dominant males and adult females are charged with protecting the territory and the resources found therein, and the females are generally the ones who defend the food.
A dominant male leads the group for one to ten years, coordinating all the activities in the group, including where its relatives sit, where they stand, and everything they do. In the Volcanoes National Park, we regularly spot two such large families:
The Musonga group occupies 75ha across Karisimbi’s slopes with 120 individuals.
The Kabatwa group, with 110 individuals and a territory of 60ha, spreads across Sabyinyo slopes. This is the most visited group and the most habituated.
Golden Monkey tours have been available in the Volcanoes National Park since July 2003.
The Kwitonda Group
Meet an immigrant family of mountain gorillas that settled in our park some 12 years ago, but keeps crossing the border every chance it gets. The Kwitonda Group are a bashful bunch of border bandits who love nothing more than to cross from Rwanda to Congo and Uganda.
This family was brought over from the Democratic Republic of Congo. It arrived in 2005, when there were 16 members in the group, all of which were habituated. They were very popular with the tourists even then. Today, the group has grown tremendously. There are now 23 individuals, including comprised one silverback, two black backs, females and young ones. Much like a human, the leading silverback is very shy. These last mountain gorillas travel freely across the borders of three neighbouring countries, without any passport or visa. Join us, and let’s have a look at these free-traveller gorillas in their natural habitat!
The Hirwa Group
Meet the Hirwa Family, a peaceful brotherhood of underdogs. Come see the twins in action, and marvel at the innocence of these fabulous creatures, unaware just how special they are to the world.
This is a group formed by one silverback. All its members came from other established and habituated groups. Its main feature is that it is more peaceful than others. As of this moment, there are 17 individuals in the group, following the very special birth of Kabatwa’s twins on June 2, 2011.
This is a mountain gorilla group that’s been blessed with a very special brood. Come meet the proud mothers, and witness some of the rarest twins on the face of the planet!
This is currently the second largest group of Mountain Gorillas in the park. It boasts 35 individuals, four of whom are silverbacks. Studied by Dian Fossey, this group is quite famous. It lives on the slopes of mountain Karisimbi.
Fun fact: rare twin gorilla babies were born in this group; not once, but twice! It first happened on May 19, 2004, when 12-year-old Nyabitondore gave birth to twins, one male and one female. Then, on May 27, 2011, another old female, Ruvumu, produced two twins, male and female. Both have been successfully raising these twins. These might be the first ever twins to survive in the history of Mountain Gorillas! However, the Susa family has recently separated from this group to form one of their own, with 17 individuals in total. If you are interested in seeing mountain gorilla twins grow and thrive, come and see these beautiful babies for yourself!
Meet a rebellious teenager now master of all he surveys, and see him in his element. Learn the story of an ambitious silverback that chose a new path and came into his own.
This group was once part of the Amahoro group, which split into two, Umubano being the smaller offshoot. Normally, in a group with more than one silverback, when the leader dies, the group is passed on to the next in line, and the members become his subjects.
This was not the case with Charles, the Umubano leader. After the death of the leading Amahoro silverback, Charles refused to submit to the next in line. Instead, he left the group with two females, forming one of his own.
A young and ambitious silverback, he has been successful in maintaining his group and gaining more females in a short time. There are now 13 members in his family, and he, as the silverback, is the happiest and the strongest of them all.
Come explore the wilderness with Amahoro tours, and find out what makes Agashya and his family so special. Learn how this came to be the largest branch in our Mountain Gorilla family tree, and come meet your favourite characters in person.
Contrary to popular belief, group thirteen has more than 13 individuals. The name comes from being the 13th established group ever found, as was customary back in those days. The first person to use this method was Dian Fossey, now a famous primatologist.
This group has never had more than one silverback in its history, and that is why, after the death of the leading silverback Murith in 1992, all the adult females were lost to other silverbacks in the Sabyinyo group. Group thirteen had only three young males left, Munani, Nyakarima and Kwirinda, who couldn’t be leaders at their age.
However, these young males stayed together until the older one, Munani turned to silverback. Unfortunately, Nyakarima left the group, and Kwirinda died of injuries due to interaction with another group.
Munani, being a silverback who wanted to form his group at any cost, had an interaction with the Sabyinyo group. He obtained Safari, a female which had also been a member of group eleven once. He also obtained two other females, Gukunda and Cyuzuzo.
In 2002, the silverback died a natural death, leaving seven members with a black back. These inexperienced males, together with the oldest female (Safari), led the group for five months, until a new silverback came to take over.
The new Silverback, Agashya, came bringing three members with him, raising the number of members to ten. However, the black back with the most authority of the five who had been leaders refused to submit to the new silverback, and left the group to a solitary life.
After Agashya came into power, he raised the number of group members to 27 with 9 females in only eight years. The name Agashya means ‘something special’, and it was given to him in recognition of his ability to lead such a big group. What’s more, in June 2011, the group was named the AGASHYA FAMILY.
See the largest silverback in the world, and catch rare and spectacular footage of him beating his chest. Join us on an expedition, and let’s see if we can spot this lively group in their natural surroundings.
This group was formed in 1992, after the death of the leading silverback in group thirteen. At first, it was known as Amavubi, meaning ‘wasps’. That’s because the habituation period was a very challenging time. At the time, the group was composed of three silverbacks: Guhonda, Ryango and Ruhennyi.
When the leader died, some of the remaining silverbacks took the females from group thirteen: Ijisho, Gukunda, Kampanga. Later, they also took Safari and other females from group eleven. The newly-formed group consisted of four females and two silverbacks. The group was then called Sabyinyo, after the mountain where it was first localized.
The group composition keeps changing over the years, depending on the rate of birth, death, and migration. New members come and old members leave every few months, but at the time of writing, there are 11 individuals in the group. This group is special for two things: its leader is the most massive silverback in the world, and it’s also a very kind group. This silverback likes to beat his chest in a spectacular display of power and authority.
N.B.: Mountain gorillas leave their groups for one of two reasons: to avoid inbreeding or to start their own groups.
Meet some of the friendliest and most playful gorillas to roam our mountain forests. The Amahoro family is an adorable bunch, so clear up some megabytes, because you’ll have plenty of footage to store!
The Amahoro group became available to the public in 2000, and it was the largest mountain gorilla family at the time. Amahoro means ‘peace’. This name was chosen as a symbol of the community’s conservation efforts, but also due to the personality of the group members. The Amahoro silverback is very relaxed and approachable. There are 18 members, including several young silverback and black back gorillas. These are very active and playful gorillas, and they like to show off to visitors. You’ll be surprised to see such a peaceful and loving family!