Two of Uganda's iconic silverback gorillas have died in the space of one month, leaving conservationists working in the country devastated.
Two of Uganda’s iconic silverback gorillas have died in the space of one month, leaving conservationists working in the country devastated.
Earlier in the year, Mishaya, the lone leader of the group of the same name, passed away after a brief intestinal condition. Now, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) has confirmed that another adult make, Mwirima, also died of natural causes. Both gorillas lived in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, in the south-west of the country.
Announcing the latest tragic news, John Justice Tibesigwa, the warden in charge of the Southern Sector of Bwindi, explained: ” Mwirima’s ill health was first detected by trackers two weeks ago when he was observed not to be feeding well and lagging behind in the group.”
The silverback died aged just 35, still relatively young given that the average life expectancy of a male mountain gorilla in the wild is 50. He had made a name for himself among conservationists after he led a breakaway from the habituated Haninyanja group a few years ago. Mwirima then started his own family, called the Rushegura group after the sector of the forest in which they settled, and this grew to number 15 individuals.
It is now hoped that Kabukojo, an adolescent male blackback gorilla, will assume leadership of the group, assisted by an older female named Kalembezi for the time being.
Mishaya (pictured right), meanwhile, was just 28 when he died after a short illness at the beginning of February. Upon hearing of his death, Dr Gladys Kalema Zikusoka, director of Conservation Through Public Health and a long-time Trustee of the Gorilla Organization, said the gorilla would be sorely missed in Uganda. The expert noted that, though he too broke off from a larger group to set up his own family in the Rushaga region of the National Park, he was famous for being peaceful and friendly, both towards other gorillas and towards humans, including both park rangers and tourists.