Tribute to Kanyonyi from Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka

Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka
December 19, 2017

Dear Friends
It is with great sadness to inform you about the loss of one of my favorite gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Kanyonyi, the lead silverback of Mubare group who died on Friday night of 8th December 2017. Kanyonyi first fell off a tree, but while he was recovering after treatment, a lone silverback fought with him because he wanted to take over his group.

Kanyonyi in his weakened state was not able to put up a good fight, and sustained many injuries, which though they were healing, left him weaker than usual. When I last visited Kanyonyi he was eating quite well, but still limping and walking slowly, with one adult female gorilla, Karungyi and her baby keeping close by his side. He made a nest in front of us to take a comfortable morning nap, and we were able to record a brief video.

I would like to thank the Uganda Wildlife Authority park staff and Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH) team who have kept a close watch over Kanyonyi to prevent him from having more interactions with the lone silverback until he was strong enough. Fighting amongst free ranging gorillas is considered to be part of their normal behavior patterns and enables natural group succession.

Conservation Through Public Health participated in the post mortem on 9th December, which confirmed the major cause of his death to be an infection in the hip joint after the fall.

I have known Kanyonyi since he was a baby, when he was born 20 years ago. In 1998, I successfully operated on his older sister, then a juvenile gorilla called Kahara when she had a rectal prolapse. She was named Kahara because she liked to babysit him. Kanyonyi became the lead silverback of Mubare gorilla group in 2012, after his father, Ruhondeza died.

Ruhondeza was the lead silverback of the first gorilla group to be habituated for tourism in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Kanyonyi was a playful young silverback who liked interacting with human visitors. Over the past five years, Kanyonyi has kept the Mubare gorilla group together and enabled it to grow through attracting many females.

When we started the Gorilla Conservation Coffee social enterprise in 2015 to support farmers living around Bwindi, we decided to name our first coffee blend after Kanyonyi who symbolizes the gorilla conservation efforts at Bwindi Impenetrable National Park since tourism began in 1993. May his legacy continue through stories, memories and the Kanyonyi coffee blend.

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Legitimately registered in Uganda, Water Journalists Africa was established in 2011 in Cape Town, South Africa with support from the UN-Water Decade Programme on Advocacy and Communication. Water Journalists Africa has since 2011, partnered with various international and Africa based organizations such as the UN-Water, The Water Channel, Water Integrity Network, 2030 Water Resources Group and UNESCO-IHE among several others to enhance reporting on Integrated Water Resources Management in Africa and promote interaction among African Journalists who report on water. Some 700 journalists from 50 African countries to date are members of this network making it certainly the largest media network on the continent.

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