Senkwekwe – which is the name of a bird that is known to sing in the morning – was a very calm Silverback who took good care of his whole family. He was also very strong, as Silverbacks tend to be, so he did engage in fighting when necessary with other Silverbacks.
Senkwekwe and his family were also the most habituated family in the Gorilla Sector at one time and often went crop raiding in the fields which caused enormous tensions with the communities that live around the edge of the forest. There are specific Rangers however whose job it is to deal with the communities and avoid conflict between the people and the gorillas.
Senkwekwe was also known to walk far and wide – much like his father Rugendo. He is also the only Silverback that we know of to stay with his father, even when he had become a Silverback. Usually male gorillas, when they reach adulthood, leave the family in search of their own. But Senkwekwe stayed, and took over the family when his father was killed.
On 22 July 2007 Senkwekwe and his family were attacked by gunmen in the forest. Senkwekwe and three adult females – Safari, Mburanumwe and Neza – were all killed. The remains of Macibiri, another adult female, were found a month later. Ntaribi, Macibiri’s infant, is presumed dead and Ndeze, Safari’s daughter, was orphaned and went to live with Ndakasi. So of a family of 12, only five remained.
This massacre was the worst tragedy for the mountain gorillas in over 30 years and affected Rangers and villagers far and wide. We mourn the loss of Senkwekwe and his family to this day.