Thousands of Rwandans, conservation partners, special guests and friends of Rwanda gathered today at Kinigi, Musanze right on the foothills of Volcanoes National Park to celebrate this year’s milestone 15th Kwita Izina baby gorilla naming ceremony.
25 baby mountain gorillas were named today. Last year, 23 baby gorillas were named by conservation champions from all over the world.
The 25 baby gorillas named are members of the Amahoro, Umubano, Hirwa, Igisha, Isimbi, Muhoza, Kwitonda, Sabyinyo, Susa, Pablo, Kuryama, Mafunzo, Kureba, Musirikali and Ntambara groups.
The 2019 Kwita Izina Gorilla Baby Namers
- Jeremy Jauncey, founder & CEO of Beautiful Destinations, an award-winning nation branding agency named a baby gorilla from the Isimbi family as well, ‘Ingando’ which represents ‘opportunity for the future and hope for a better world’.
- Madeleine Nyiratuza, Programme Specialist, Sustainable Growth Unit at UNDP Rwanda, named a baby gorilla from the Amahoro family, ‘Isanzure’ noting that the name means that gorillas should be allowed to roam freely.
- Amb. Ron Adam, the Ambassador of the State of Israel in Rwanda named a baby gorilla from the Sabyinyo family, ‘Igihango’ which means ‘convenant’ and said it represents the unbreakable bond between the gorillas and their guardians.
- Tony Alexander Adams MBE, an English football legend named a baby gorilla from the Mafunzo family, ‘Sura’urwanda’ which translates to ‘Visit Rwanda’, symbolizing the partnership Rwanda has with English football club, Arsenal.
- Niklas Adalberth, Swedish entrepreneur and founder of Norrsken named a baby gorilla from the Isimbi family, ‘Irembo’ which means ‘gateway’.
- Ngabo Médard Jobert, better known as Meddy, a Rwandan RnB and pop artist named a baby gorilla from the Musirikare family, ‘Inkoramutima’.
- Otara Gunewardene, a Sri Lankan businessperson and philanthropist, named a baby gorilla from the Pablo family, ‘Kira’ which means ‘bless you’ in Kinyarwanda and named after her two sons, Kiran and Rakhil.
- Louis Van Gaal, Dutch former football manager and player named a baby gorilla from the Hirwa family, ‘Indongozi’ which means ‘leader’.
- His Excellency Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe: Former Prime Minister of Ethiopia named a baby from the Pablo Family ‘Umukuru’ as a tribute to Mutware, the oldest elephant in Akagera National Park that died last year.
- Ronan Donovan, National Geographic photographer and filmmaker named a baby gorilla from the Kwitonda family and the name was chosen after National Geographic opened the naming process to their social media followers. The name that was chosen was ‘Intego’ which means ‘purpose’.
- HRH Princess Basma Bint Ali, an advocate of biodiversity conservation and sustainable agriculture in Jordan named a baby gorilla from the Mafunzo family, ‘Uhiriwe’ which means ‘lucky one’.
- Emmanuel Niringiyimana, a young Rwandan who built a road on his own to facilitate the movement of people and goods in his village in Karongi District named a baby gorilla from the Igisha family, ‘Mugwire’.
- Paul Milton, the founder of Milton Group who developed the Singita Kwitonda Lodge on behalf of investors Mr Paul Tudor Jones and Mr Anders Povlsen & Luke Bailes, the Founder and Executive Chairman of Singita, named a baby from the Pablo family, ‘Inararibonye’ which means ‘wise and experienced’ in Kinyarwanda.
- Dame Louise Martin, DBE, President of the Commonwealth Games Federation and Patricia Scotland, named a baby gorilla from the Igisha family, ‘Uruti’ which means ‘the highest recognition of heroism’ and ‘Nazarian’ which means ‘the one who loves and initiates peace among the communities’.
- Naomi Campbell, English supermodel, actress, and businesswoman named a baby gorilla from the Muhoza family, ‘Intarutwa’ which translates to ‘excellent’ in Kinyarwanda.
- Award-winning Rwandan Professional cyclist, Joseph Areruya named a baby gorilla from the Amahoro family, ‘Inganji’ meaning long life.
- Marco Lambertini, Director General of World Wildlife Fund for Nature named a baby gorilla from the Kwitonda family, ‘Ikirenga’ which means ‘Exceptional’.
- Sherrie Silver, Actress and choreographer, named a baby gorilla from the Susa family, ‘Ibirori’ which means ‘celebration’.
- Anthony Nzuki: Ranger Post Leader at Akagera National Park, Rwanda named a baby gorilla from the Kureba family, ‘Karame’.
- Kenyan entrepreneur and philanthropist, Dr. Kiboro Wilfred, named one of the new baby gorillas from the Sabyinyo family, ‘Ituze’ which translates to stability in Kinyarwanda and ‘take care of it’ in Swahili.
- Jean Nepomuscene Musekura, one of the incredible park rangers from Volcanoes National Park chose the name ‘Bisoke’ for one of the new baby gorillas from the Ntambara family.
- H.E Amb. Karén Chalyan, Ambassodor of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Rwanda named a baby gorilla from the Ntambara family, ‘Umwihariko’ which means ‘exception’.
- Robert Twibaze, one of the senior tour guides with over 12 years of experience chose the name ‘Inzobere’ for a baby gorilla from the Agashya family.
- Amina Mohammed: Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. She was formerly the Federal Minister of the Environment of Nigeria. She named a baby from the Umubano family, ‘Ingoga’ which means courage in Kinyarwanda.
- Shaffer Chimere Smith, better known by his stage name Ne-Yo named a baby gorilla from the Kuryama family, ‘Biracyaza’ which means greater things are coming for Rwanda.
- While making her remarks, RDB Chief Tourism Officer, Belise Kariza said, “As we give names to 25 baby gorillas today, we celebrate our conservation successes and thank the community, partners and friends from around the world for their invaluable support to protect these remarkable animals.
“And while mountain gorillas remain an endangered species and more work is needed to ensure their long-term survival, the most recent census tells us that the mountain gorilla population in the Virunga Massif has grown by 23% since 2010 to 604 individuals. This success is the result of governments, communities and conservation partners working hand-in-hand to protect the species and its habitat.”
Following that, RDB Chief Executive Officer, Clare Akamanzi said, “Today is a historic moment in Rwanda’s gorilla conservation journey, and one we are glad to share with so many friends from around the world.
“Today, Kwita Izina forms part of an ambitious strategy to preserve our natural heritage and further expand the role of tourism in our country’s transformation. We have set the lofty target of increasing tourism revenue to 800 million dollars over the next five years – roughly double what it is today. Achieving the vision, we have set for ourselves requires thinking big and even acting bold. That’s why Rwanda is investing heavily in a range of foundational drivers of conservation, tourism and community development – from research and partnerships to training, promotion, quality assurance and infrastructure development. With this in mind, it is appropriate that we are celebrating here at the foothills of the Volcanoes National Park, an area that is one of the most ecologically significant ecosystems.”
Speaking while delivering his keynote address, guest of honor, H.E President Paul Kagame said, “The success stories we have heard from the head of RDB, could not have happened without the cooperation, the understanding, the support of the local communities whom I have had the opportunity to express our thanks to.
We also made sure that they benefit from this good cooperation they have displayed over many years that has benefitted the gorillas, the country, and also the many visitors & tourists who have enjoyed being here and enjoyed security because of this cooperation.
“We have mentioned how we give ten percent of the total revenues collected from this area to the local community, this has been very helpful in advancing our cause of conservation, as well as development. We can only ask our citizens to continue to play a very good role in making sure that we see more developments, not only in their own community area but also in the park where gorillas live.”
About Kwita Izina
Kwita Izina is a time-honoured tradition in which Rwandan families hold a ceremony to name a newborn baby. For three decades prior to the first official gorilla naming ceremony, park rangers and researchers named Rwanda’s mountain gorilla babies as part of monitoring each gorilla in their family and habitat.
The Government of Rwanda, through the Rwanda Development Board and in collaboration with conservation partners, the private sector and local communities, has achieved remarkable success in protecting and growing the endangered mountain gorilla population and conserving its habitat. Rwanda’s traditional naming ceremony was adapted to celebrate this success as a national flagship event now known as Kwita Izina.
Kwita Izina was introduced in 2005 to raise awareness of conservation efforts and to thank communities for their on-going and invaluable participation and support of these initiatives. It is now the most important event on Rwanda’s conservation calendar, and is attended by national, regional and international participants.
281 baby mountain gorillas have been named since Kwita Izina began. Alongside the naming ceremony, a weeklong celebration of activities is hosted to share the importance of conservation and the role of tourism in protecting rare and iconic species. Today, Kwita Izina is fast becoming Africa’s leading dialogue on conservation and sustainable tourism.
As a result of conservation efforts such as Kwita Izina, the population of the endangered mountain gorilla increased to 604 in 2016 in the Virunga Massif compared to 480 in 2010. The Virunga Massif is comprised of Mikeno Sector of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. Mountain gorilla numbers in the entire region had fallen as low as 242 in 1981.