This week’s blog is written by Dr. Eddy, one of our Congolese veterinarians.
As reminder, the young silverback Mukunda likes to raid crops outside Virunga National Park and he has twice traveled far outside of the park, requiring the Gorilla Doctors to anesthetize him so he could be carried back. The second time, on July 12, he was moved back in the forest from the Kibumba market located on main road between Goma and Butembo by the Gorilla Doctors and ICCN rangers.
After this, we heard from ICCN rangers that Mukunda attempted to join his family members in Rugendo group which has five members including dominant silverback Bukima, young silverbacks Kongomani and Baseka, adult female Lubutu, and the juvenile Noël. Unfortunately, Mukunda was chased away after a fight with his brother. He’s becoming a real solitary silverback now, moving alone in the forest.
Since that time Mukunda is not traveling outside of the park for long distances, but he has been coming out as far as 2km, spending one or two hours in farmers fields’ before returning to the forest. Most of these times, Mukunda must be driven back into the forest by Hugo teams (people hired by ICCN to scare gorillas back into the forest). Mukunda hates Hugo. Hugo team members wear uniforms and make a lot of noise to scare gorillas, and for Mukunda, who saw several of family members killed in 2007, Hugo brings back bad memories of the past.I recently visited Mukunda from the Bukima patrol post. It was very easy to find him as he was behind the rangers’ patrol post about 25 meters from their house and 10 meters from the park boundary. He was eating forest food growing outside the park and some papaya tree stems. He looked very good, and seemed to be bigger and brighter than the last time I saw him. From the rangers report, Mukunda was out of the park at the edge yesterday also, and slept not far from the park’s edge. The smart Hugo team was again behind Mukunda ready to get him back into the forest.
Hopefully Mukunda will realize that he belongs in the forest, although it is tough being a solitary silverback. One day when he is older and wiser, he may have the chance to have a new family of his own.
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