Farewell mugaruka



A large male silverback gorilla sitting in dense green shrubs and trees. He is turned slightly to one side, and looking back over his shoulder into the camera. He is holding a small branch and has a leaf in his mouth.

MUGARUKA 1987 – 2021

We are heartbroken to have to share the sad news that your beloved adopted gorilla Mugaruka, has died after a short illness. 

Born in July 1987, the mighty silverback, who lost a hand in a poacher’s snare and lived alone in the mountain rainforests of Kahuzi-Biega National Park in Congo, was 34 when he died – a good age for a gorilla. The park veterinary team kept a careful eye on him, and can report that his death was gentle, and he slipped away in his sleep. 

It is beautiful to note that your gorilla was called ‘Mugaruka’ because his name meant ‘saviour’. It was his presence which helped authorities reinstate the park, after poachers had killed many gorillas during the Democratic Republic of Congo’s civil war in the 1990s. These included Mugaruka’s own father, Mushamuka, and elder brother, Ninja, killed in 1997. 

Mugaruka was only a young ‘blackback’ in those days, and too young to be taken seriously as a group leader. Amazingly, an old female kept the group together for two years, and handed over to Mugaruka when his back became silver in 1999. Unfortunately, Mugaruka’s troubles were not over and in 2002 his cousin Chimanuka, whose own father was also slaughtered by poachers, took over most of Mugaruka’s family.

But, despite his disability, Mugaruka remained popular with the ladies and, to the end, kept challenging Chimanuka to win back one of his former females. Although we are devastated by his loss, it is a great comfort to know that, with the help of your adoption, Mugaruka and Chimanuka were kept safe to lead natural, if complex, lives.

“The Born Free team is deeply saddened to learn of the loss of Mugaruka,” said Dr Nikki Tagg, Born Free’s Head of Conservation. “An eastern lowland gorilla, Mugaruka was one of a declining species, with fewer than 5,000 individuals left today, and so was extremely precious, not only to those who knew him, but also to his species as a whole. 

“Gorillas are unparalleled in their ecological role, swallowing and dispersing large seeds, and being so crucial to the maintenance and regeneration of tropical forests that their loss can damage the functioning of the ecosystem. The death of Mugaruka is a huge blow to the gorilla population of Kahuzi-Biega, and his resilient and tenacious character will be missed by us all.”

If you would like to make a donation in memory of Mugaruka, you can do so my filling out the form below. All funds raised will help protect these intelligent and perceptive gorillas – the largest of all apes and critically endangered – and to secure their future.