On September 5, 2015, the Rwanda Development Board hosted Kwita Izina 2015. Now in its 11th year, Kwita Izina is an annual event attended by thousands of international, regional, and local participants, in which the naming of baby gorillas recently born takes place. I was invited to attend this prestigious event in Rwanda, where a select number of guests choose a meaningful name for the baby gorillas.
This year, 24 baby gorillas were named – the newest arrivals born after last year’s ceremony.
Kwita Izina is inspired by the ancient Rwandan tradition of naming babies soon after they are born. This year the theme was “conserving now and for the future”. Before 2005, which marked the first public celebration of naming gorillas, the Volcanoes National Park management – including trackers, rangers and researchers, used to organize a small ceremony often in the format of a staff meeting.
The current format as a national event, which takes place at the foot of the Virunga Mountains, serves multiple purposes, including conservation awareness. The gorilla trackers realize the value of their work, and take pride in increasing their dedication to safeguard the valued habitat.
There is nothing that can prepare you for seeing these remarkable creatures and getting to spend a magical hour with them as they go about their daily life. I was fortunate enough to spend time with the Sabinyo gorilla family, which includes “Guhonda” – the oldest known silverback, Big Ben – the only known bald blackback gorilla, as well as a baby gorilla born in May, 2015.
(Main photo: Recently named Ikirezi with her mother | photo credit: Rwanda Development Board)