Kwita Izina: Rwanda celebrates gorilla conservation successes

Twenty-five baby mountain gorillas will be named today at the landmark 15th annual Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony in Kinigi, Musanze District, Northern Province. 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.

2019 Kwita Izina Gorilla Baby Namers

  1. His Excellency Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe: Former Prime Minister of Ethiopia
  2. Amina Mohammed: Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. She was formerly the Federal Minister of the Environment of Nigeria
  3. Paul Milton & Luke Bailes: Founder of Milton Group who developed the Singita Kwitonda Lodge on behalf of investors Mr Paul Tudor Jones and Mr Anders Povlsen. Paul is a conservationist and has been working in Rwanda for the past 5 year. The Founder and Executive Chairman of Singita, Luke Bailes, has been a pioneer in tourism conservation on the continent for decades. Singita’s model of combining luxury eco-friendly lodges with conservation projects has led to operations in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania and in August this year, here in Rwanda, on the edge of Volcanoes National Park.
  4. HRH Princess Basma Bint Ali: Princess Basma bint Ali is an advocate of biodiversity conservation and sustainable agriculture in Jordan; she is the founder of many non-government environmental organizations like the Royal Botanic Garden of Jordan (RBG) and the Royal Marine Conservation Society of Jordan
  5. Dame Louise Martin, DBE: She is President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, which oversees one of the world’s biggest sporting events – the Commonwealth Games and Commonwealth Youth Games. 
  6. Tony Adams: Tony Alexander Adams MBE is an English football legend. As a player, Adams played for Arsenal and England, captaining both teams.
  7. Amb. Ron Adams: He is the Ambassador of the State of Israel in Rwanda
  8. Niklas Adalberth: Swedish entrepreneur and founder of Norrsken
  9. Jeremy Jauncey: Founder & CEO of Beautiful Destinations, an award-winning nation branding agency
  10. Otara Gunewardene: Sri Lankan businessperson and philanthropist
  11. Ronan Donovan: National Geographic photographer and filmmaker
  12. Louis Van Gaal: Dutch former football manager and player. At club level, he served as manager of Ajax, Barcelona, AZ Alkmaar, Bayern Munich and Manchester United, as well as having two spells in charge of the Netherlands national team.
  1. Naomi Campbell: English supermodel, actress, and businesswoman.
  2. Madeleine Nyiratuza: Programme Specialist, Sustainable Growth Unit, UNDP Rwanda. She is also responsible for the conservation and restoration of the Gishwati Forest Reserve which led to the creation of Gishwati Mukura National Park
  3. Sherrie Silver: Actress and choreographer. She won an MTV VMA Award for Best Choreography for choreographing Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’.
  1. Marco Lambertini: Director General, World Wildlife Fund International (WWF)
  2. Emmanuel Niringiyimana: Young Rwandan who built a road on his own to facilitate the movement of people and goods in his village in Karongi District.Shaffer Chimere Smith: Better known by his stage name Ne-Yo, he is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, actor and dancer.
  3. Ngabo Médard Jobert: Better known as Meddy, he is a Rwandan RnB and pop artist.
  4. Anthony Nzuki: Ranger Post Leader at Akagera National Park, Rwanda

According to RDB Chief Executive Officer, Clare Akamanzi, the increasing gorilla population in the Volcanoes National Park is proof of the strides that Rwanda has made in gorilla conservation:

“This could have not happened without the support and collaboration of our conservation partners as well as the cooperation of the members of the community surrounding the park. Initiatives such as the Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony play a major role in conserving gorillas. Thanks to the conservation efforts, we have been able to improve the gorilla trekking experience for our visitors and also increase the amount of support we have given to the local communities through the revenue sharing program.

Rwanda’s overall tourism strategy has always focused on two important areas, sustainability through responsible tourism and conservation and community involvement. It has always been about protecting our natural heritage, providing world class experiences that highlight the diverse natural beauty of Rwanda while ensuring that Rwandans benefit from this tourism and conservation. No one has been left behind,” she says.   

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.