I’ve been slowly learning to distinguish each of the nine individuals in Makumba’s family. Here’s an introduction to each of them, so you can get to know the nine souls with which I spend all my time!
Makumba, the silverback, has two females: Malui, who is heavily pregnant, and Mopambi. Malui has two children: Mosoko, a juvenile female, and Tembo, a four-year-old male. Mopambi also has two offspring, Bokata (also a juvenile female) and Sopo, a two-year-old infant whose sex is yet to be determined. There are two males whose mothers left the group, Mobangui and Kunga.
I tried to find the most clear photos I have of each individual’s faces. There have been some individuals who have been more elusive than others and thus despite the fact that I spend hours with them every day, I have yet to get a good shot of some gorillas.
This is Makumba, the mighty silverback—patriarch and protector—of the group. Although he doesn’t show much affection to his children, he will sprint to them without skipping a beat if he hears one of them scream.
Malui is HUGE at the moment. Her side of the family is slightly grumpier and well, uglier than Mopambi’s lineage. She is easily distinguishable by her massive belly and her extremely pronounced facial ridge, a feature she passed onto Mosoko and Tembo.
Here, you can catch a rare glimpse of Mosoko’s eyes, which are usually obscured by the shadow cast by her facial ridge.
Tembo, Mosoko’s younger brother and Malui’s youngest son, is slightly smaller than everyone else (though larger than Sopo, the infant). He is growing very quickly, and is catching up in size with the other juveniles!
This is Mopambi, looking eerily human with Sopo on her back. She’s one of the more shy individuals, and I don’t get to see her that often.
This is actually the only photo I have of Bokata, Mopambi’s daughter. She’s been less visible in recent times, which may be a sign that she will be leaving the group soon. She’s the prettiest of a lot, with a slim gentle face with none of the harsh features of Malui’s kids.
This is precious little Sopo. It is too early to be sure of his or her sex, but Tianna and I are rooting for it to be a girl though most think that it is a boy. He used to avoid humans completely until around August, when he suddenly became an attention-seeking superstar. He now follows Makumba around everywhere, desperately trying to impress him with his clown antics while the silverback continues chewing his food. You can expect many more photos of Sopo…
This is Mobangui, a fuzzy little quirkball who comes closer to us than anyone else. He likes to walk towards us to grab food only feet away from us, and I am convinced that this is a pretense he performs just to freak us out a little.
Kunga is a brownback, a soon-to-be silverback. He will be dispersing soon, his impending departure hinted by his tendency to hang around the periphery of the group far way from everyone else, and he has recently even disappeared for a couple of days at a time. Despite his imminent silverbackdom (and the muscles to prove it), he is very playful around the younger ones and shows a lot of affection towards them. He will make a fantastic father himself.
Soon Kunga will be gone and there will be another baby in the family. It’s fascinating to see witness the trials and tribulations of the Makumba dynasty… I urge you to come meet them yourself!
[UPDATE: This post was written on 11/20, right before I left for camp. Malui gave birth on 11/19. Photos coming soon!]