Bwindi gorilla family lose Silverback to illness

 Mishaya, the dominant silverback from the gorilla family of the same name, was found dead earlier this week, in the forests of  Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwestern Uganda.

The silverback was 28 years old and was the alpha male in a family of gorillas which are habituated for tourism. The average lifespan of a gorilla in the wild is around 35-40 years, though gorillas in captivity have been known to live to 50 years or more.

The Gorilla Doctors, a team of vets who work towards the conservation of gorillas via medical monitoring and interventions, are currently conducting various tests to establish the exact cause of death. However, early reports suggest Mishaya may have died as a result of intestinal complications after a short illness.

Mishaya led a breakaway group of gorillas from Nshongi family a few years ago, but the future of his group is now uncertain. The death of a silverback can cause significant disruption to the complex social structure of a group of gorillas. A family group will often break up completely after the sudden loss of a dominant silverback, or sometimes a new leader will emerge from within existing males within the group. Wildlife authorities and tour operators will now be watching closely to see how the group adapt after Mishaya’s death.

The Mishaya family live in the southern sector of Bwindi Forest, with a further 4-5 habituated groups resident in the same area including Nshongi, Kahungye, Nkuringo and Bwese. Further afield, in the northern sector, a further five groups are habituated for gorilla tracking, including Rushegura, Habinyanja, Mubare, Oruzogo and Bitakura.