KIGALI - Rwanda yesterday lost one of its treasured and oldest Mountain Gorillas-a Silverback named Titus, which succumbed to old age at 35.
According to Rwanda Development Board/Tourism and Conservation, the Silverback also known as the ‘Gorilla King’ passed away in Volcanoes National Park.
“It is with great sorrow that RDB-Tourism and Conservation reports the death of the legendary Titus, known as The Gorilla King.
Not only was he one of the most powerful silverbacks in the Volcanoes National Park, he is possibly the most remarkable gorilla ever known,” a statement from the tourism office reads.
Titus was born on August 24 1974 and has been observed closely by researchers including Dian Fossey throughout his entire life.
As his ‘biography’ reads, no gorilla scientist could have predicted Titus’ meticulous rise to power as he seemed to be underdeveloped at birth, with serious breathing difficulties.
Titus unfortunately faced numerous tragedies as a youngster, including the loss of his family members to poachers.
He was then abandoned as a baby after his mother’s desertion due to a violent attack by the then dominant silverback.
After suffering so much resilience, Titus became part of an all-male group, at just age 5 for eight years.
Eventually five females joined the group and after the dominant silverback of the time (named Beetsme) began to age, Titus took over as the lead Silverback thus the group named Titus group, earning him the title-The Gorilla King.
Titus successfully fathered numerous off-springs more than any other known mountain gorilla. Titus is an example of a species that has survived against all odds.
Thanks to the conservation efforts by the Government and the tourism office and partners in gorilla conservation.
As a result, the mountain gorilla numbers have continued to increase.
Of an estimated 380-400 gorillas living in the Virunga Massif, stretching between Rwanda, DRC and Uganda, Rwanda is home to at least 265 which are habituated and regularly monitored on a daily basis.
“Every gorilla death recorded is not only a great loss, but a major setback to conservation efforts of removing the mountain gorillas off the endangered species list.
There are only 750 mountain gorillas left in the world,” the statement adds.
Titus deaths comes at a time when United Nation’s declared 2009 as the “Year of the Gorilla”.
Gorilla tourism contributes over 70% of the total tourism earnings.