At the time of habituation, the group had only 13 members and hence its name “Group 13”. Currently, it comprises of over 22 members with four silverback gorilla, four adult females, one blackback, two sub adult female, two juveniles and seven infant gorillas.
The family was first headed by Nyakarima who was later challenged by Agashya. Agashya really made news by simply viewing and imagining the size and energy of Nyakarima.
Agashya challenged and defeated Nyakarima. He also migrated to the volcano to seek protection of his family and ensure that Nyakarima never gets them again.
The group is currently led by a silverback called Agashya who had to overthrow Nyakarima before taking over the throne. The family’s population grew from 13 to 27 members in a space of 8 years.
Agashya indeed made news by first watching and estimating Nyakarima’s strengths and eventually challenging him to a fierce fight by taking off with his whole group. This was a shock to Nyakarima and an unprecedented event in observed gorilla history. Agashya then moved up the volcano to secure his group and make sure Nyakarima did not track them. Agashya has since increased his group’s numbers by snatching from other groups and assimilating other lone gorillas, rapidly increasing the group from 12 to 25 individuals.
Agashya is known, at the first sign of trouble, to take his whole group up to the top of the volcano. Once, while we were taking a group of tourists to see Group 13 this exact scenario unfolded. Agashya felt that there was another silverback who was about to challenge him. In response, he took the group up the volcano. Every time we thought we were close to see them, Agashya would move the group further uphill. We did not reach them until the very top, where we finally got a chance to see them. By the time we got back to the car we had walked for 12 hours. While it was an exhausting day, it was magical to see gorillas at the top the world.
Historically, Agashya is a silverback that is known for his forceful grabbing of members from the rest of gorilla families and succeeding the lonely ones into his making it one of the largest groups with 25 members. This silverback is also famous for its behavior of migrating to higher altitude with his members.
What is fascinating is that whenever tourists visit this group, Agashya becomes suspicious of other silverbacks and the only thing he does is to continue moving on top of the volcano.
Tracking the Agashya Family
Zoo tours are great but quite boring considering that animals are usually caged and quite domesticated. In contrast, the animals in the parks are totally wild and roam freely. This keeps you guessing as you can’t tell at what point you will be seeing wildlife.
This is one of the things that attract tourists to Volcanoes National Park and to this group in particular. They are adventurous and always on the move to discover the different wonders of the park. As such, the hiking experience to see them is enriched like a treasure hunt as it treats you to many sights and sounds you would have missed out on. It could be natural swimming ponds deep inside the park, some critically endangered bird species, foot prints of elephants…. the list goes on.