The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: 19 Gorillas Named in Kinigi

19 baby gorillas, including a set of twins and one female adult, were yesterday given names in a colorful ceremony held at the foot of Virunga Mountains in Kinigi-Musanze District, Northern Province.

Thousands, among them members of the diplomatic corps, foreign dignitaries, international journalists and conservation enthusiasts from across the world, witnessed the naming of the gorillas in the annual Kwita Izina event.

Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi officiated at the 8th edition of the naming ceremony during which he and other selected individuals gave names to the 19 babies, including a pair of twins named Impeta and Umudende.

Habumuremyi named the gorilla "Gikundiro" loosely translated as "the beautiful one".

"I called it the Gikundiro because it was voted by Rwandans as the lovely and cutest baby gorilla," said the Prime Minister.

The Chairman of East Africa Tourism Platform, Richard Rugimbana, named another one Akarabo (beautiful flower)..

The Prime Minister said the Kwita Izina ceremony continues to exhibit Rwanda's commitment towards conservation of gorillas and that the annual event remains a very important occasion on the national calendar.

"It is the government's goal to balance the material needs of our people with safe-guarding our environment," he said.

He hailed the international community for being part of the event, which, he said, was very important in promoting the most treasured animals in the country.

"We cannot increase our tourist numbers unless all our guests feel at home and are well taken care of," he noted.

Habumuremyi reminded the surrounding communities of the Volcano National Park the importance of the gorillas and the huge sums of money generated from them annually and partly used to improve the livelihood of the surrounding communities.

Last year, gorillas generated $9.6 million which was part of the $252 million revenues generated from the tourism industry.

However, effective this month, the gorilla permits were increased by 50 percent in all categories; international, regional and nationals.

The gorilla naming event, which was held under the theme "Sustainable tourism for a green economy", was graced by a number of artists who included Kidumu from Burundi, Tom Close and Rafiki among others.

John Gara, the CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), commended Rwandans, saying they continued to work with the government to conserve the mountain gorillas.

"This year's celebrations comes at a critical time when the degradation of the ecosystems has reached alarming proportions in many parts of the world," he said

Rica Rwigamba, the Head of Tourism and Conservation at RDB retaliated that the tourism industry continues to be the country's top foreign exchange earner.

"We are committed to conserve the tourism industry as we protect our mountain gorillas," she noted. About 141 gorilla babies have been named since 2005.

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