Twenty Two baby mountain gorillas were given names yesterday at the 12th Kwita Izina. The 2016 Kwita Izina edition was held at the foothills of the Virunga mountains at the Kinigi Grounds, Musanze District in Rwanda’s Northern Province.
The 6 hour event was attended by thousands of people including tourists, locals of Musanze, conservationists, tourism planners and government authorities. The invited guests who attended the event came from 28 countries across the world including United States, India, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Italy, Sweden, Zambia, France, Tunisia, Benin, Italy, Germany, Japan, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Australia.
The event was 22 lucky people selected to name baby gorillas from different families. These are;
- Mary Ann McDonald: Professional photographer who has gone gorilla tracking twenty one times.
- Timothy Tear, the Executive Director of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS),
- Frank Matsaert: Chief Executive Officer Trademark East Africa
- Sam Kanyamibwa: Executive Director of Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS)
- Jaques Rusirare: Chief Executive Officer of Ameki Color,
- Jose Kalpers, a professional conservation practitioner who once worked with ORTPN
- Michael Ryan: EU Ambassador to Rwanda,
- Jean Claude Musabyimana: Mayor of Musanze District,
- Sheila Ashong: Principal Programme Officer of Environmental Protection Agency Ghana,
- Sheja Audrey Divine: Best Primary Six pupil in 2015,
- Keith Vincent: Chief Executive Officer of Wilderness Holdings,
- Muyango Jean Marie, a Rwandan artist well known for Rwanda traditional songs,
- Dr Sandy Andelman, a Chief Scientist and Senior Vice President Conservation International in Seattle USA
- Niyonkuru Donatha: Best Senior Six Student in 2015 – Languages
- Paul Scholte from Netherlands, currently working with the GIZ Central-West Africa project – based in Cameroon
- Cyizere Rukundo Fidence: Best Senior Six student in 2015 – Sciences Section
- Ntirakirwa Elisha: Long serving staff member of the RDB Conservation department (since early 1980’s)
- Harerimana Jean Leonard: Representative from Governors Camp Rwanda recognized by Rwanda Revenue as the top Tax payer of 2015 in Northern Province.
- Urban Boys: Rwanda’s most popular artists
- Mark Rose: Mr. Rose is the Chief Executive Officer of Fauna and Flora International.
- David Attenborough: Director of programming of BBC Two in 1960’s known for setting the standards for the modern nature documentary.
Kwita Izina is a Kinyarwanda word meaning “giving a name” and this is an annual event held since 2005. The event follows a long held Rwandan ritual of naming every young born baby. In 2014, the ritual was extended to the mountain gorillas, critically endangered great apes that are protected in the Volcanoes National Park in northern Rwanda. The number of named babies bring the total number of gorillas named since 2005 to 283 gorillas.
The ritual celebrates the bonding between Rwandan citizens and the rare primates. Like humans, gorillas too have families and both have a lot in common with the two considered to be cousins. During the event, the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame praised the local community of their support and participation in protecting the mountain gorillas, the stars of the virunga mountains! Their participation has been rewarded by the Rwanda Development Board and a gorilla levy has been given to the local community in form of schools, clean water and other services over the past years.