KINIGI - One of the oldest surviving mountain gorillas at the Virunga National Park has died at the age of 31 years. The Silverback, regarded as the most aggressive male gorilla at times called the king, has been the head of the Shinda group for the last 15 years.
According to Dr Felix Kinani, of the MGVP-Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project, the great ape, a member of one of the seven research groups, died of chronic disease.
In the world of the primates, the death of the Shinda Silverback marked the end of a remarkable reign of a king who had led his family over three decades.
Warders said the primate’s health had deteriorated; the body emaciated, with little appetite before it finally succumbed to its death two days later.
Succession in the group has been free of controversy as another young gorilla from the same Shinda family has now taken the lead.
The process was not void of emotion as the other 29 Shinda group members could not leave the area where their leader had died until the trackers removed his body and buried it in Kinigi.
Veronica Vecellio, of Karisoke Research Centre, monitored the primates behavioural changes, explained that despite its age, the death of the primate was rather a surprise because gorillas have previously suffered worse health conditions and survived - especially if it is a human induced sickness.
In the Virunga National Park, 380 mountain gorillas are estimated to be part of the only existing 700 primates living there.
The conservation drive has been attributed to dedicated work of the Rwanda Office of Tourism and national Parks (ORTPN) and the participation of the local community to create friendly environment for the rare primates.