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Bwindi mourns the passing on of a famous female gorilla

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She was known to be playful, friendly and even cheeky, but sadly, at the age of about 30, Bwiruka,
a female gorilla has died. One of the most senior adult female mountain Gorillas of Bwindi
Impenetrable National Park, Bwiruka has died barely three months after the oldest male, Ruhondeza
passed on.

Bwiruka, who has been a dominant female in the 34-member Nshongi family, was found dead by trackers on Monday, according to officials of Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

A necropsy (postmortem for non-humans) is being performed to determine the cause of her death
though UWA officials say Bwiruka, whose name in Rukiga means “one who knows how to run,” had
recently grown frail and was sighted trailing the rest of the group with difficulty.

“Bwiruka has for the last few weeks been walking and feeding with difficulty, a clear sign that she
has not been feeling well,” said the Acting Chief Conservation area manager at UWA Mr Charles
Tumwesigye. “She was about 30 years which is very old age for females because giving birth makes
them weaker than the males. It is very sad because her death means the number of mountain gorillas
has gone down by one.”

Mountain gorillas, especially the males, can live up to about 50 years in habituation while their
average life span in the wild is 35 years. Habituated gorillas are more closely guarded by field
staff and receive veterinary treatment for snares, respiratory diseases, and other life-threatening

However, researchers recommend that some gorillas remain unhabituated as a strategy against the
risk of human pathogens being transmitted throughout the population. The game park’s most famous
resident, 50-year-old Ruhondeza, died in his sleep on June 27 after weeks of frail health due to
old age.

‘Favourite lady’
UWA officials say during her hey days, Bwiruka was the male gorillas’ favourite lady, thanks to her
playful character. She could be spotted in secret trysts with the family top males, Bweza and
Mishaya. “We all mourn the death of this special member of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park,” Mr
Tumwesigye said.

The gorilla trackers will miss Bwiruka just as much as her family members. The secret of Bwiruka’s
appeal seemed to be her light-hearted ways given that most adult females are not given to

As the Nshongi Family became more accustomed to the company of the trackers, Bwiruka would be known to playfully harass men. She could set up an ambush and ‘attack’ the trackers, leaving them
bewildered, unharmed and laughing at the fact that she had pulled a fast one on them. Bwiruka will
be laid to rest in the park after the necropsy has been performed.

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