MARAYA – BLACK BACK
Meaning of name: Maraya means ‘prostitute’ in Rukiga
Age: 12 years (Born in 1997)
Who’s yo daddy? Rwansigazi
Who’s yo mama? Uncertain of who she is among the older females in the family.
When the trackers dubbed this mountain gorilla ‘prostitute’ they were not hating on him.
The behavioural conduct among mountain gorillas allows for any mature male to mate with any mature female in the group (except mama). Apart from the fact that silverbacks don’t allow the blackbacks mating rights, all is fair in love as far as gorillas are concerned. So why the trackers would single out this one and give him such a name is quite revealing.
Well, it’s simply because the lad is a classic Don Juan; he loves the fairer sex and will go great lengths to seek his lovers. While most blackbacks are known to limit their attentions to the females in their group, Makara has been known to wander off to the homing range of other gorilla groups – namely his uncle Mwirima’s family and sleepy old Ruhondeza’s Mubare group – to seduce the young adult females of the group.
Maraya’s flexible loyalties are not only limited to the fairer sex but also spill over to the volatile issue of family allegiances. Back in 2002 when the family unit divided, Maraya was an older juvenile. Gorilla juveniles are pretty independent chaps and really have no obligations to follow mummy or daddy; so we can say that he pretty much made an independent decision which silverback to follow. He chose Mwirima and stayed put with the Rushegura group. A year later on Valentine Day 2003, the two families had a family re-union and when they parted, Maraya, then a sub-adult, decided to move on with Rwansigazi.
Since then he has proved to be more stable, staying on with his chosen family even when the groups happen to meet in the forest.
But let’s not be too harsh on this blackback. He has some sterling qualities about him. He is a jolly, curious and playful fellow, in spite of his size (seems he has taken on the family trait of largeness of body).