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The Humba family of Mountain Gorillas is one we have posted about many times as this is one of our habituated families.

Humba is a very calm gorilla – and the rest of his family lives peacefully as a result of this. This does not mean however that Humba will not defend his females and children from other Silverbacks.

Humba is habituated and calm. So for many Rangers he is actually their favorite gorilla to visit with tourists or visitors, as you know Humba is unlikely to charge or do anything too surprising!

Humba is the brother of Senkwekwe, the Silverback executed in July. Mapuwa and Ruzirabwoba are also his brothers. Humba was born into the Rugendo family and has been a Silverback since 1998. That same year he had an interaction with his father, and the family split.

Humba left with 8 individuals – 4 adult females, 1 sub-adult male (Kakendi) and 3 babies. In 1999 a baby was born into the family, called Lubutu, which meant the group size increased to 10.

Here is what happened next:

2000 – Kakendi became a Blackback and left the family. Today we don’t know where he lives – but he could be in one of the non-habituated groups in DR Congo. So the family number fell from 10 to 9.

2001 – The Humba family structure remained unchanged, and life continued peacefully for them.

2002 – 2 births! So 11 individuals. Matembela was born on 12th January to Magori, and Mahindure was born on 18th January to Gato.

2003 – 1 birth! So 12 individuals in total. Assan was born on 7th March to Bwoba.

2004 – Back to 11 individuals because Assan disappeared in March 2004. This was after an interaction between Humba and an unknown family. We have no idea what happened to Assan, and probably never will.

2005 – This was a busy year – the family ended up with 9 individuals.

9 February: Semakuba was born to Magori.

30 May: Sub-Adult Female Mburanumwe emigrated to the Rugendo family. She was one of the females killed in the July massacre.

16 June: Kanyarwunka was born to Gato.

9 August: Sub-Adult Male Mukunda emigrated to the Rugendo family. Last time we saw the family in September (following the July massacre) he had taken over leadership of the Rugendo family.

27 August: The adult female Bwoba disappeared; she was never seen again.

10 November: Mayani is born to Mukecuru, but disappears. We do not know how or why, but this gorilla is presumed dead.

12 November: The adult female Mukecuru is found dead, presumably of old age. We thought when she gave birth to Mayani that she would not have the strength to be a mother as she always seemed to have trouble keeping up with the group. As you know Mountain Gorillas can move very fast.

Since then this family, like the others, has experienced plenty of both tragedy and joy. In June 2009 for example, after 5 days of carrying her dead infant, Bonane finally came to terms with the loss of her firstborn and surrendered the body to MGVP field veterinarian Dr Jacques Inyanya. Dr Jacques was with the tracking team that was following the Humba Family and found the group early in the morning still at their overnight nest site in heavy rain.

Dr Jacques found Bonane but could not see the body of the infant. He waited and when Bonane moved on he found that she had left it behind in the nest. Dr Jacques quietly recovered the body and left without the gorillas noticing. The only obvious injury was a deep wound on the left side of the gorilla’s chest. Dr Jacques says that it was mostly likely the cause of death- the heart and/or lungs were probably damaged and he would have died quickly.

By contrast in 24 July 2009 there came the wonderful news that Magori had given birth to a healthy baby. She was clearly as delighted with her baby as Nyakamwe, Matembela, and Semakuba were with their new sibling!

We continue to follow the progress of the Humba family – the births, deaths & interactions. It is imperative that we – the Rangers of Virunga – track the progress, movements and ups and downs of our habituated mountain gorilla families.

2010 – An interaction between humba and kabirizi brought a new member in the family, kanyalire the only surviving child of machibiri who was killed in the july 2007 massacre.