Kigali — Naming infant mountain gorillas has become an important annual nationwide tradition in Rwanda since 2004. The naming ceremony, called Kwita Izina and organized by the Rwandan Development Board, is based on a historic Rwandan cultural practice for naming newborns, and has been adapted and enhanced to celebrate successful gorilla protection and conservation.
This year's week-long event that started on Saturday August 26, now includes a variety of conservation-awareness activities, with government leaders, park staff, local groups, students, celebrities and communities all joining in to help choose names for the gorillas born in the past year and participating in additional events throughout the week.
The integrated approached to conservation in Rwanda, through tourism, government commitment, research, protection and community initiatives has seen important successes, and Kwita Izina is now an important national celebration.
"Over the years, Kwita Izina has grown to become more than just giving names to infant gorillas," says Felix Ndagijimana, the Fossey Fund's director of programs in Rwanda and the Karisoke Research Center.
"It is now an international event during which Rwandans and the international community come together to celebrate successes in the conservation of Rwanda's rich biodiversity as well how our conservation efforts contribute to the development of the country and the well being of its people. It's also a day to recognize the value of partnerships and also show appreciation to rangers, who have dedicated their lives to the cause of conservation."
Event activities continues to grow
This year's Kwita Izina includes a number of events leading up to the ceremony, including a gala fundraising dinner, a conservation and tourism exhibition and the two-day "Conversation on Conservation" conference at Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village.
The exhibition will showcase Rwanda's work in conservation activities, while the two-day conference will bring delegates from around the world to discuss Africa's common conservation challenges and find solutions for preserving critical ecosystems.
Topics will include conservation in the face of climate change and engaging youth in conservation and will include staff from the Fossey Fund. Among those speaking, Fossey Fund CEO Dr. Tara Stoinski will be giving a keynote talk, entitled "Conservation: A foundation for sustainable tourism."
Naming ceremony is Sept. 1
The infant gorillas born in the past year will receive their names during the special ceremony and celebration on Sept. 1 in Kinigi, Volcanoes National Park.
The namings this year are extra special because they include four adult females who traveled into Rwanda from unhabituated groups in Congo and one new group that formed, as well as 14 infants.
The gorillas to be named include six infants and one new adult female in the groups monitored by Gorilla Fund's Karisoke Research Center. In recognition of the 50th anniversary of Karisoke, the Fossey Fund's Dr. Tara Stoinski will be given the honor of naming one of the infants!