Kighoma was held captive in Buniatenge, near the Tayna Nature Reserve in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, by a militia group. Such groups often keep young gorillas and other wildlife as ‘mascots’. He was rescued by a man named Kighoma, the brother of a local king, so that is how he got his name. After his rescue, Kighoma spent several years living in temporary care center in Goma while GRACE was being constructed. He lived with three other Grauer’s gorillas, females Mapendo, Amani and Ndjingala. This foursome was the first group of gorillas to be transferred to GRACE by UN helicopter in April 2010.
Kighoma is now 8 years old and the oldest of the three males at GRACE. He’s beginning to adopt the ‘stiff-stance’ posture, which signifies dominance, and to challenge alpha female Pinga and beta female Mapendo who currently out-rank him. Not long ago, Kighoma was hesitant to feed near the dominant females, but now he sometimes eats in front of them, suggesting that he’s feeling more confident within the group. He has also begun looking out for the safety of the other gorillas while the group is in the 24-acre forest enclosure. Kighoma spends much of the day checking the enclosure perimeter, especially if he hears anything suspicious, and monitoring members of the group. His head is growing too, a telltale sign that he’s obtaining the secondary sexual characteristics of an adult male gorilla.
Kighoma is generally friendly with all the gorillas and does not take his leadership role too seriously yet because Pinga is still in charge. He still likes to play, and with a name that translates into “drums” it is no wonder that he loves to wrestle with other youngsters and beat his chest during play.
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