Preamble – Habinyanja (original)
The original Habinyanja group was habituated in 1997 and 1998 and by 1999 tourists were already visiting the group.
The name Habinyanja comes from the root of the Rukiga word for ‘body of water’ (nyanja). The original group was first sighted near a two pond swamp in BwindiImpenetrableForest.
In the past one decade of interaction with this group it has provided enough intrigue, drama, power struggles, secret trysts and back-stabbings to rival the best (or worst) Hollywood, Bollywood or Nollywood family dramas.
The saga begins during habituation in the reign of the dominant but aging silverback patriarch, Mukurusi. He was the undisputed leader of a peaceful family of about 30 individuals - a large number even by gorilla family standards.
Mukurusi means ‘old man’ in Rukiga. He was named this because the trackers had noted that, even though he was still the commander-in-chief of the group, his days were numbered and sure enough, he soon passed away, leaving several sons.
In most families - on and off-screen – the death of the patriarch unleashes smouldering sibling rivalries. Mukurusi’s brood is no exception. The first cause of friction was family leadership. This thorny issue was brought about by the fact that there were four silverbacks in the group. These being:
Rwansigazi – A silverback at father’s death he was next-in-line to lead the family, but his dominance was not guaranteed because of his half-brothers.
Mwirima – Also a silverback at father’s death and a contender for supremacy; initially, both brothers shared power but it was only a matter of time before the situation came to a head.
Further fuelling the struggles for dominance were Mukurusi’s other sons;
The young and restless, Makara;
The black-sheep (or is it gorilla) of the family, Binyindo
And Maraya, he of elastic morals and equally elastic loyalties.
This unfolding family chronicle is also heightened by the adult females of the group, led by the shrewd, self-styled, alpha female, one-eyed Kisho.