With a BSc in Environment, Economics and Ecology, Sarah has long been fascinated with the challenge of balancing human needs and environmental protection.
Sir David Attenborough, vice-president of Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and longstanding advocate for gorilla conservation, has named a baby mountain gorilla as part of Kwita Izina – Rwanda’s annual naming ceremony.
He joins FFI’s Chief Executive, Mark Rose, who was also granted the honour of naming one of the new arrivals in recognition of FFI’s role in supporting the Government of Rwanda to safeguard these great apes over the years.
Hobe – the gorilla infant named by Mark Rose. Credit: Rwanda Development Board.
In a short video – filmed at the Rwanda High Commission in London in the presence of the High Commissioner, Her Excellency Yamina Karitanyi – Sir David explained why he considers it such a privilege to be able to take part in the ceremony.
“I first came to Rwanda nearly 40 years ago and then saw mountain gorillas for the first time; what marvellous animals they are. But they were in great trouble at that time – there were only about 400 of them. Poaching was rife, the forests in which they live were threatened and getting smaller and smaller.
“Since then, the conservation movement to help the gorillas has grown and grown and grown – an example to the whole world of what can be done if you really care. There have been lots of troubles between then and now, which you might have thought would have risked in fact the entire survival of the mountain gorillas. On the contrary, today there are over twice as many in the world as there were when I was with them.
“So it is indeed a privilege to bestow a name on one of the new arrivals. The name is Inshungu, which I’m told means…blessing.”
Though he would probably never admit to it, Sir David himself played a pivotal role in the recovery of these charismatic creatures.
After filming mountain gorillas in 1979 and witnessing their plight, he returned to the UK and immediately arranged a meeting with FFI to discuss what could be done to turn their fortunes around.
As he describes in his filmed conversation with Mark Rose, FFI immediately took steps to raise funds and establish what today is known as the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) – a coalition between FFI and WWF.
As a result of conservation initiatives like IGCP, as well as the efforts of government authorities and communities in all three countries, mountain gorilla numbers have been increasing steadily.
But they are not out of danger just yet, as many threats still jeopardise their long-term survival. These include habitat degradation, accidental capture in snare traps, disease (which can be transmitted by people), and human development in and around the gorillas’ habitat.
During a visit to discuss these ongoing threats with government partners, Mark Rose was able to attend the Kwita Izina naming ceremony in person.
“I’m very honoured to have been given the chance to name a mountain gorilla on behalf of FFI, and I feel a special bond with little Hobe. It has made me even more determined to ensure the survival of these remarkable animals,” he said.