Rukina was head of the Kyaguliro group in Bwindi
The sad news was announced this morning by Uganda Wildlife Authority Managing Director Dr Andrew Seguya.
The silverback Rukina was the dominant male of a 20 strong Kyaguliro group, in the National Park in South Western Uganda.
Seguya revealed that Rukina had been struck dead by lightning in the downpour that ravaged the region over the past days.
“This is to announce the death of ‘Rukina’ the Silverback of the Kyaguliro gorilla group that was hit by lightning,” announced Seguya.
Rukina’s Kyaguliro group is one of the seven groups in Bwindi, but was set aside for research, while the rest are for tourism.
It is estimated that that Rukina was born around 1984. He was well identified as a group member of the Kyagurilo Group in the late 1990’s when he was a young silverback.
It was at this time that he was named ‘Rukina’, meaning ‘playful’ in Rujiga, due to his playful nature as a young adult. He became the dominant silverback of the group in August of 2004, following a 3 year struggle for dominance over the previous dominant silverback (Zeus).
Through genetic analysis of fecal samples, UWA officials confirmed that he sired his first offspring when he was still a subordinate male in 2002.
“Overall, he likely sired 10 offspring, most of whom are currently still infants. During his 11 year tenure as the dominant silverback he attracted four females into his group from neighboring groups, attesting to his ability to be a good leader,” said UWA in a statement.
“He was a very tolerant silverback, spending a lot of time with the adult females as well as his many infants. At the time of his death, the group was at its largest size, containing 21 gorillas, including 8 adult females.”
Rukina contributed to the understanding of the ecology and social behavior of Bwindi mountain gorillas due to the focus of research on his group by the Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology since 1998.
He helped promote the plight of the critically endangered mountain gorillas around the world by being filmed for several documentary films including one by the BBC.
UWA says this group will now be led by Rukara the next Silverback.
“There was a great instability in the group from yesterday till today.However, in the afternoon the trackers noted some bit of calmness though this may take a bit of time before the group fully recovers from this unexpected shock. May his soul rest in peace.”