By Annonciata Byukusenge
Mukecuru, one of Rwanda’s oldest mountain gorillas that conservationists have ever observed, is presumed to have died, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund has said.
At the time of her death, “she may have been as old as 43, which would be the oldest mountain gorilla ever recorded,” according to information from the fund.
An article published by Veronica Vecellio, the fund’s program senior advisor, indicated that the gorilla “showed signs of illness in April and then was missing from her group, along with silverback Agahebuzo, who we believe stayed behind to wait for her.”
“When Agahebuzo returned to the group at the end of the month, we had to conclude that Mukecuru had died,” the article read further.
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund described Mukecuru as a remarkable female gorilla, “and we feel fortunate to have observed her life, gaining a unique glimpse into gorilla family bonds and empathy among family members.”
Mukecuru was first seen by the fund’s trackers when she was already an adult, in 1995.
They estimated her to be about 15 years old at the time, though it is possible she was as young as 10.
“Mukecuru spent more than two decades in Pablo’s group and gave birth to three females there. The first one, Mitimbili, born in 1996, maintained a very deep connection with her mother, while her second and third daughters – Umwe and Isura – were more independent and joined other groups after reaching maturity,” the fund’s message read.
Mitimbili, on the other hand, stayed in Pablo’s group and had three sons there. Together with Mukecuru, they formed a very united family.
“Mukecuru was always nearby while Mitimbili was raising her infants and continued to stay bonded with them even when they became independent and mature silverbacks,” the fund’s article narrated.
During her long life Mukecuru also had eight infants who did not survive, and the conservationists observed her “appearing to grieve as she carried her deceased infants.” New time noted.