Rwanda has enthusiastically received thousands of international, regional and local visitors to its Virunga mountain ranges to visit the endangered mountain gorillas. For decades, international conservation organizations, donors and concerned individuals have made substantial resources available to the gorilla conservation cause and continue to do so.
The remaining home range of the endangered mountain gorillas is limited to the Virunga Massif, a chain of volcanic mountains shared by Rwanda, DRC and Uganda. Rwanda boasts two third of the Virunga Massif’s remaining endangered mountain gorillas. The remaining population of mountain gorillas has only survived thanks to the renewed efforts of national conservation authorities and the local populations and the support they have received from the international community.
Despite disturbances in the region in the recent past, conservation partners have been active in the protection of this species and their habitat. For several decades now, Rwanda has been at the forefront of gorilla conservation efforts. The government of Rwanda through the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) has put conservation high on its national agenda, not only for the protection of mountain gorillas and other keystone species, but also their habitats and ecosystems that provide life support to us all.
Notable achievement in Rwanda tourism are 26,3% growth in the population of gorillas since the last census in 2003, introduction of new tourism products such as the Congo Nile Trail, steady growth of tourists with USD 200 million in revenues in 2010, and estimated at 257 million in 2011 and conversion of poachers into farmers. The safety and security of the park and its surroundings is also a notable national achievement without which little of this would have been achieved. Another milestone in Rwanda’s tourism sector is the recent grading and classification of accommodation facilities using East African Standards.
As a mean to conserve and protect the region where the mountain gorillas live, Rwanda Development Board -Tourism and Conservation launched the first ever public Gorilla Naming Ceremony in 2005 under the theme, “Ensuring the Future of Rwanda’s Mountain Gorillas”. Since then, RDB-Tourism and Conservation and its partners have successfully held six more ceremonies generating more funding for community projects and awareness of the importance of conservation.
Kwita Izina Background
The mountain Gorillas share with the human beings 98% of the genes and about a third of the world’s total mountain gorilla’s population live in Rwanda.
The Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Park (ORTPN) and indeed the entire Rwandan community found it pertinent to extend the much cherished secular Rwandan tradition of naming every new born baby to the Gorillas as well.
The ceremony of giving a name to a new born baby commonly known as “Kwita Izina” has been part of the Rwandan tradition for centuries. This ceremony has also been used for past 3 decades now to give names to new born gorillas. The names attributed to the gorillas play a great part in the program of monitoring of each individual and gorilla groups in its habitat. Since this started, the gorilla naming ceremony was internal to the ORTPN and its partners and especially among the field staff.
As a means of raising awareness at the national and international level about the protection of the mountain gorillas and their habitat. ORTPN launched the annual gorilla naming ceremony in 2005. The theme of 2005 ceremony was “Ensure the Future of the Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda”.
In 2006, the theme was “Recognize the Role of the International Tourists who Selected Rwanda as Destination” and in 2007, the theme was “Caring for Wildlife Concerns Us All”.
In April 2007, Kwita Izina (to give a name) was unveiled as the new brand name for the Gorilla Naming Ceremony. During these three last ceremonies which were very successful, ORTPN and its special guests named 30, 12 and 23 mountain gorillas, respectively.
The 2008 Kwita Izina Ceremony: Working together to conserve our Wildlife—20 gorillas named.
in 2009 was the Fifth Annual Kwita Izina: On Saturday, June 20th 2009, the RDB|Tourism & Conservation – the successor of ORTPN– will host the Fifth Kwita Izina to give names to the newest arrivals in the Gorilla families. Names will be given to eighteen (18) mountain gorillas at the Volcanoes National Park.
The 2010 year’s ceremony coincided with the “International Year of the Gorilla,” proclaimed by the United Nations. The International Year of the Gorilla was launched at a ceremony in early December 2008, where Prince Albert II of Monaco and representatives of more than 100 governments gathered to discuss increasing measures for nearly 100 species endangered by pollution, climate change and over-hunting. By declaring 2009 the International Year of the Gorilla, the international community hopes to draw the attention of the public and funding agencies to the plight of these primates. As a country that has been in the forefront of gorilla conservation we heartily welcome the proclamation of the International Year of the Gorilla.
The theme for 2010 was “Celebrating the Year of the Gorilla”. Under this theme, we celebrated the efforts of all those that have contributed to the welfare of our wildlife and its conservation and gave opportunity to everyone to contribute to the sustainability of conservation for Gorillas. There were over 100 key personalities in wildlife conservation and business to attend the event.
The Gorilla Naming campaign is aimed at ensuring the future of Rwanda’s mountain gorillas and will provide an opportunity for all those who care about the mountain gorillas to contribute to this common effort.