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The Susa Family has 21 members and is currently led by Impuzamahanga as its dominant silverback gorilla. This is one of the oldest and most famous families. The group is composed of 21 individuals including 3 Silverbacks, 5 Adult females, 3 Blackbacks, 1 Sub-adult female, 4 Juveniles and 5 Infants.

The Susa Gorilla Family lives at a relatively higher altitude and most challenging mountain gorilla group to trek. This gorilla family derived its name from the Susa River that flows through the gorilla family’s home range.


The family was researched on and made famous by Dian Fossey an American zoologist who had taken long studying the mountain gorillas in Rwanda with her research base at Karisoke for over 20 years. This family had the highest mountain gorilla population of 42 mountain gorilla individuals but it was reduced to 28 individuals including 3 silverbacks 3 male mountain gorillas.

The Susa gorilla family has some of the oldest habituated mountain gorillas especially poppy. Poppy was born in 1976 and it is said to be from one of Dian Fossey’s gorilla groups and its very famous for her twin mountain gorillas (Impano and Byishimo). Unfortunately the mother gorilla left one of the new born twins due to hardship in taking care of two of them in the forest.

Born in 2004 and  The group is also known to have been a victim of a poaching incident in May 2002 where 2 adult females were killed trying to protect two babies from poachers who wanted to steal and sell them on the illegal market.

The Few Twin Gorillas

Not every good thing that happens once in a lifetime is welcomed. In mountain gorillas, the birth of twins isn’t that exciting to the mother because it means entering into a stressful phase of care giving. In this regard, when a mountain gorilla gives birth to twins, it usually abandons one of the infants.

Ironically, the group has registered two sets of twins.

In 2004, the mother in this group managed to grow a set of twins Impano and Byishimo. She has defied odds to mother both of her cheerful twins; Impano and Byishimo. This is one of the things that makes this group to be one in a million.

Later in 2011, another set of twins were born Impeta and Umudende. Unfortunately Impeta passed on in 2015.

The Split

10 years ago, the group had one of the biggest populations in Volcanoes National Park. It boasted of 42 members. However 9 of its defiant members split off to form Susa B group, also known as Karisimbi group. Later other members split to form the Igisha Family.

Gorilla Trekking

This family is the hardest to trek as it tends to range high into the mountains but RDB’s Tourism & Conservation trackers will know well in advance where the group is located the day before in advance for the next trackers. Sometimes tourists have been barred from tracking the group because of its distant location.

The Susa family is recommended for the physically fit and adventurous tourists capable of hiking for a long time. For easy trekking of the mountain gorillas in the Susa family, trackers first go ahead of the tourists to trace where the family is and then directs the tourists accordingly. Trekking the Susa family is offers exciting moments especially as tourists watch the twin mountain gorillas jump and play around. Other gorilla individuals in the family are seen either feeding or relaxing around the thickets.

Although the most difficult, many people seek to visit Susa group, not only is this the largest gorilla group. Dian Fossey studied for years and sought after group is guided by Francois Bigirimana, the most famous and knowledge guide. With over 30 years of experience, including working with Fossey, Francois is I a league of his own. Having lived with a group of gorillas for an extended period of time, Francois is even able to communicate with them through grunts, shrieks and chest thumps. He knows the gorilla and they know him.