Lulengo is one of the sons of the murdered Silverback Rugabo. After his father’s death the Silverback Kwitonda took the Rugabo Family’s females and went to Rwanda leaving the three brothers to build new families. Lulengo has managed to hold his family together despite many interactions; often with his brothers.
The story of any mountain gorilla family living in Congo is that of a small group of gorillas whose generally peaceful lives are occasionally ripped apart by violence and periodically obscured to us by war.
The Lulengo family is certainly no exception to this rule. The leader, Lulengo, was born into the Rugabo Family, the first mountain gorilla family in the Mikeno Sector to be habituated. This pioneering work was done in 1984 by Conrad Aveling, Sylvestre Mburanumwe and John Matembela.
Lulengo was initially called ‘Musekura’ but the Rangers changed his name to Lulengo in memory of the Technical Director of ViNP who was killed by a land mine.
Rugabo also died violently; he was shot by poachers during the Great Lakes Refugee Crisis in 1994. When he died his sons Lulengo,Pili-Pili, Mareru and Nvuyekure, were left to look after the family. Lulengo was still only a blackback and Nvuyekure was just a juvenile.
The poachers who killed Rugabo tried to take Nvuyekure to Uganda to sell but the Congolese Immigration Service arrested the poachers, confiscated Nvuyekure, and then returned him to the park.
Lulengo took over the leadership of the family for a short time, but it was difficult for him to stay at the top because there were several lone silverbacks in the area. One of them, Kwitonda, took over and Lulengo was left with only his brothers for company. The Kwitonda Family moved to Rwanda in 2004 and has been there ever since.
Pili-Pili was the first to leave the group and become solitary; the other brothers soon followed suit. They have been fighting ever since. In 2007, in a fight that lasted for three days, Pili-Pili took three females from Mapuwa, who had a family of 15, then Mareru took them from Pili-Pili, then Pili-Pili took them back again, and then, in August 2007, Lulengo took them. So Pili-Pili, having had a family group of four (one Silverback, two adult females and one sub-adult female), became solitary as Lulengo, who had been missing since January of that year, charmed his whole family away.
Of the origins of the individuals in that family we know very little. We do know that the two females, Bavanyuma and Maganya were pregnant when they left Mapuwa and that they subsequently gave birth to Bagambe and Mirindi respectively.
These new additions brought tremendous joy to the family and to the Rangers but there has also been cause for grief among both.
In February 2009 following an interaction between the Lulengo Family and the Mapuwa Family, Kidole, one of the females in the Lulengo Family was found by rangers to be bleeding heavily following a miscarriage. By the time the vets arrived she had disappeared. After being missing for months she came back to Lulengo but, four months later, rangers found her dead, apparently from old age, with Lulengo’s brother Mareru nearby, mourning.