Last week I got word from the Bikenge patrol post that the Rugendo group had split up into two. The Rangers said that the silverback Pili-Pili and a juvenile had left the other gorillas and traveled far into the bamboo forests near the Rwandan border towards Jomba.
More than 6 hours walk away from them the silverback Bukima and other members of the group had remained near the edge of the park and were as usual making forays into neighbouring fields to eat crops.
A week passed and the gorillas still did not rejoin each other, but we had no confirmation of exactly which juvenile had followed Pili-Pili. So this morning I went to see and identify the gorillas with Bukima to discover who else missing.
Only an hour after leaving we found Bukima in the forest together with adult female Lubutu, blackbacks Mukunda, Kongomani, and Baseka, and a juvenile which turned out to be Noel.
By elimination that means that it is in fact the juvenile female Bavukahe which has followed Pili-Pili and split from the rest of the group. This development follows closely behind the death of Bariyanga and is the latest in a series of changes in the group’s dynamics since it was turned upside-down by the tragic massacre two years ago.
Teams of Rangers are now tracking the two groups separately and we will be keeping a close eye to see if this split becomes permanent…