Mukunda means “likeable” in Kinyabwisha and was named in memory of a Ranger who was killed during the civil war.
Mukunda likes to be the center of attention – and if there is anything going on without him he simply barges in and tries to take over. He usually succeeds! When the Rangers visit him he tries to frighten and intimidate them – he will suddenly lurch towards them as if he is going to attack. But he is essentially very good-natured.
He also plays a lot with Kongomani – and while he is in the middle of playing he will suddenly leave Kongomani and come hurtling towards the Rangers at breakneck speed! It is quite disconcerting – but he is a good gorilla and never ever mean or nasty, just clever!
Mukunda used to be in the Humba family but left in August 2005 to join Rugendo, and has stayed there ever since. As far as we know Mukunda took over leadership of the Rugendo family following the massacre in July 2007 when Senkwekwe, Mburanumwe, Safari, Machibiri, Neza, and Ntaribi were executed.
When Mukunda was in the Humba family he was very good at protecting all the individuals. Sometimes, when he felt there was another family nearby that maybe posed a threat, he would leave the family to go and confront the potential threat. Bravery like this is not at all common in a Blackback.
One day about 3 years ago some rangers were observing the Kabirizi family when, out of the blue, Mukunda appeared. They recognized him, and as he went to leave they decided to follow him. After tracking him for a while, they noticed that he re-joined the Humba family - but he had clearly come to see if Kabirizi, the formidable Silverback, was planning an interaction with Humba or represented a menace in any way.
This short film shows the veterinarians and Rangers working together to move Mukunda across the Mikeno Sector and away from the crops he had been raiding.
The operation begins with the Rangers setting up a kind of ambush: they chase the Solitary out of the forest into a place at which he can be safely and easily sedated. You can hear the vets calling the name and dosage of the drugs as they administer them to the prone animal. The Rangers then carry this 170 kilo dead weight through the forests and up steep hills under the Equatorial sun. It’s punishing work and it lasts all day.
It’s not unheard of for a Solitary Gorilla to behave like this: to eat crops belonging to the people who live in the villages on the edge of the park. When this happens - understandably enough - the villagers can’t tolerate it and they contact the Congolese Wildlife Authority and ask them to sort the situation out. It is crucially important that we do so, not only for the sake of the harvest, the life of the gorilla or indeed the lives of the villagers, all of which were in jeopardy, but also for the sake of the relationship between the people who live around Virunga and the park – the physical space, the life-forms that occupy it and the institution. The professionalism and dedication of the vets and the Rangers, evidence of which you can see here, is crucial to the maintenance of that relationship, which, if it stays strong, will protect the park in the future.
DOB: Circa 1995
Known Offspring: None
Known Siblings: Mahindure, Kanyarwunka, Kanyangara