Image: Pierre Fidenci

The first display of a violent gorilla gang attacking a single male member shocked the public and left wildlife experts scratching their heads — and the incidents have continued.

Gorillas typically persist in large groups containing multiple females and one dominant male. It has only been within the last ten years that larger groups have begun banding together and incorporating multiple male members.

The mob attack happened amongst the most observed gorillas in the world — in the Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park, located just outside of Rwanda’s Karisoke Research Center. One lone silverback gorilla named Inshuti was attempting to join the ranks of a larger family and then without warning the group turned and swarmed him, beating him half to death — not just the males, but females and juveniles as well.

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This same gorilla population has been under observation for the last forty years and nothing of this magnitude had ever before been encountered. On occasion, male gorillas have been known to seek out and kill babies or battle one-on-one amongst themselves, but gang violence is not in their historical nature.

Wildlife experts have developed loose theories centered on climate change and an increasing gorilla population density but there is no definite reasoning behind the behavior. Since that initial occurrence in 2004, two more incidents have taken place — again in 2010 and then in 2013. All of the occurrences have involved large numbers of gorillas injuring and dragging off solitary victims.

“I’ve spent a lot of time watching wildlife and that was one of the most shocking things I’ve seen,” says Stacy Rosenbaum, who witnessed the 2004 attack. 

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