10th annual naming ceremony celebrates new baby mountain gorillas

On Tuesday 1 July 2014, Rwanda celebrated its 10th annual Kwita Izina, a traditional gorilla naming ceremony.

Kwita Izina (literally meaning ‘naming’) is a centuries old traditional Rwandan naming ceremony held when a child is born, welcoming them into the family and community.

Kwita Izina Naming Ceremony 2014. Credit: Kwita Izina
Kwita Izina Naming Ceremony 2014. Credit: Kwita Izina

The Rwandan people are the custodians of the local mountain gorilla population, responsible for their well-being, protection and the conservation of their habitat.

Every year neighbours, friends, conservationists and dignitaries are invited to join the local community as the newborn gorillas are named.

Strong but vulnerable

Only around 880 of these magnificent great apes are left in the world today, in two isolated populations – one in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, south-western Uganda, and the other on the forested slopes of the Virunga volcanoes, straddling the borders of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda.

Listed by the IUCN as Critically Endangered, today the main threat to mountain gorillas is habitat loss due to human population growth and resource needs.

Unfortunately, the recent resurgence of armed conflict in Virunga National Park, DRC, also poses an immediate threat to the species as well as the people neighbouring the park.

Baby mountain gorilla. Credit: Kwita Izina
Baby mountain gorilla. Credit: Kwita Izina

Each of the 18 baby gorillas received a name reflecting different wishes for the good health of the country and the animal. Names given included; Ndengera (‘protect me’), Inzozi (‘dreams’) and Tebuka (‘hurry through’).

The chief executive of the Rwanda Development Board, who hold the annual ceremony, Amb. Valentine Rugwabiza, told participants that the increase in mountain gorilla numbers is thanks to the tireless collaborative efforts of the Government of Rwanda, communities neighbouring the park and conservation partners.

Kwita Izina Naming Ceremony 2014. Credit: Kwita Izina
Kwita Izina (literally meaning 'naming') is a centuries old traditional Rwandan naming ceremony held when a child is born, welcoming them into the family and community. Credit: Kwita Izina

It’s partly due to gorilla conservation that Rwanda’s tourism sector has been growing at a remarkable pace in recent years.

Records from last year show that the country hosted 1,137,000 visitors who generated USD $294 million, up from $62 million in 2000.

International Gorilla Conservation Programme, a coalition between Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and WWF, was established in 1991 to conserve mountain gorillas and their transboundary habitat by partnering with key stakeholders while significantly contributing to sustainable livelihood development.

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