Latest news the Gorilla families of the Parc National des Volcans in Rwanda.
The weather pattern in the Virunga Range remained very pleasant for most of the month, with morning temperatures between 9 and 14 ° C at 6 a.m. and day temperatures reaching up to 25 °C in the early afternoon. Many mornings were beautifully clear, offering wonderful views from the lodge towards the Eastern Virunga volcanoes of Visoke, Mikeno and Karisimbi. Usually, clouds would build up rapidly in the afternoons, releasing their first drops well after guests were back from gorilla trekking. The first of the rains arrived on the 2nd of September with a short sharp afternoon shower and the rains then continued until the middle of the month, when we received on average 21- 23 mm per day. From the middle of the month onwards the rain then tapered off. The prevailing winds came from the East and South-East, bringing in moisture from Lake Victoria. Though the long dry season was definitely over, it seemed that the heavy rains of October – November were still far away.
In Volcanoes National Park, the return of the rain brought new growth to the bamboo forests triggering the bamboo to sprout new shoots and leaves. All this growth meant that many of the gorilla families became less mobile, than during the previous three months of the dry season, when they had to wander further afield in search of food.
The Susa Group, one of the largest of the gorilla groups in the park, remained split this month and we think that this will probably lead to the creation of a new, totally independent gorilla family group in Mt Karisimbi area. The dominant males of the two groups (still considered as sub-groups within the Susa Group), seem to be avoiding each other more and more.
The most significant and very sad event in the park’s gorilla population was the death of Titus, leader of the group of the same name. This legendary silverback, aged 35 (he was born on 24 August 1974), was found dead in his nest on the morning of 14 September by trackers of Karisoke Research Station. Titus had been followed and studied since his birth. The newborn baby was first discovered by Kelly Stewart, an American student working with Dian Fossey at Karisoke at the time. It seems that the death of the old dominant silverback was hastened by the return of his son, ‘Rano’, another adult silverback male, who returned to the group after having lived as a lone silverback for a long period. Persistent challenging from Rano apparently exhausted the old leader, who fought for his status position until his end. Titus, may be the most famous gorilla in the Volcanoes National Park, was buried in the gorilla cemetery on the site of the former Karisoke Reaearch Camp during a special ceremony on 16 September.