RUHONDEZA – DOMINANT SILVERBACK
Meaning of name: In the local language spoken of the Bakiga and Bafumbira people who live in south-western Uganda, his name means: “The-one-who-likes-to-sleep.”
Who named him: During habituation trackers noted Ruhondeza’s capacity and love for sleep and rest. Over the years he has lived up to this reputation.
Age: Ruhondeza is estimated to be about 39 years, which – in gorilla years make him quite ancient.
Who’s yo daddy? Father unknown
Who’s yo mama? Mother unknown
When you come a-calling, he’ll most probably be the one taking it easy as the females lead the way. For a silverback he’s not very big, but don’t let that fool you, in his hey days he was a Goliath of sorts.
Though this aging patriarch lethargically oversees a much diminished house-hold, he once lorded over a family of over eighteen individuals.
It is suspected that, wary of being usurped by younger, stronger males, he would get rid of them by means foul, not fair. Trackers recount how most of the blackbacks in the group would often be taken for a walk in the forest by the Sleepy One and he would re-join the group later: alone. The blackbacks would never be seen again.
All’s fair in love and war and Ruhondeza met his match in Makare, a younger, solitary silverback bachelor, who fought and won two of the fairer sex gorillas from Ruhondeza’s harem.
This could have changed Ruhondeza’s attitude towards young males considerably as he now has spared the lives of Kanyonyi a young blackback and one sub-adult male – Muyambi, and is even known to get along very well with them. Is this a shrewd move on Ruhondeza’s part, realising that he needs the strong, young males to protect the group from invaders such as Makare? If so, one cannot help but admire the aging patriarch for his cunning.
Not a very good friend you may think, but don’t judge Ruhondeza by his means of keeping his throne. Ruhondeza is also known to be a protective, loving father. In the earlier part of 2009 when one of his wives – by name Kashongo - died, leaving behind a six-month old infant, Ruhondeza cared for the babe as best as he could, with the help of the other family members. When the mite died a week after its mother, it was found by the trackers on Ruhondeza’s bed. The old silverback had trusted no other family member with caring for the motherless orphan and would sleep with it on his bed.
A friend to be proud of indeed.