As part of Rwanda’s annual Kwita Izina ceremony, Deborah Dunham, Gorilla Doctors Board Chair, is honored to name one of 24 new mountain gorilla infants

Friday is Rwanda’s 17th annual Kwita Izina ceremony, a celebration of Rwanda’s mountain gorilla conservation success and commitment to the future of this endangered species. Friday also marks World Gorilla Day, a global movement to celebrate all gorillas.

The infant mountain gorilla being named by Deborah Dunham during Kwita Izina 2021. Photo courtesy of the Rwanda Development Board © 2021

Kwita Izina – “to give a name” – names each of the infant mountain gorillas born in the previous year. This year, Rwanda is proud to be celebrating the birth of twenty-four mountain gorillas. The celebration first began in 2005, inspired by the ancient Rwandan tradition of families gathering friends to welcome a new baby. The celebration honors not only the new births of mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, but also Rwanda’s conservation success in bringing mountain gorillas back from the brink of extinction.

The virtual celebration is live-streaming Friday, September 24th on Visit Rwanda’s YouTube Channel beginning at 9:00AM PDT; 12:00PM EDT and 6:00PM CAT (Central African Time).

“Mountain gorillas are the only great ape whose numbers are increasing in the wild. From a low of 250 in the 1980s, the mountain gorilla population in the Virunga Massif region has rebounded to 1,063. Rwanda is proud to be a leader in this international effort. Our Kwita Izina celebration honors all of the people including park rangers, conservationists and other partners who continue to work together for the long-term survival of the majestic species,” said Zephanie Niyonkuru, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Rwanda Development Board.

This year, Davis resident and dedicated gorilla conservationist, Deborah Dunham, has the honor of naming one of the twenty-four infant mountain gorillas. Dunham currently serves as the Chair of the Board of Directors for Gorilla Doctors, a nonprofit organization conserving wild eastern gorillas in Rwanda, Uganda and DRC, through life-saving veterinary medicine and science using a One Health approach.

Deborah Dunham with her gorilla trekking team in Rwanda. Photo courtesy of Deborah Dunham.

“I am extremely humbled to have the honor of naming one of the infant mountain gorillas as part of Kwita Izina ceremony, says Dunham. “The female I have named is the infant of adult female Kurudi, a member of the Titus family group in Volcanoes National Park.  I have named her Nshunguye, which means ‘Rescuer’ in the Kinyarwanda language.

Dunham adds, “Her name is especially meaningful on multiple levels. First, Gorilla Doctors rescue ill and injured gorillas right in their forest home. Second, until Nshunguye was born, her mother, Kurudi, was the only female in Titus group – now the Titus lineage will continue into the future!”

Another photo of Nshunguye, taken by Gorilla Doctors during a visual health check when she was first born. © Gorilla Doctors

Gorilla Doctors is based at the Karen C. Dryer Wildlife Health Center at the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. Since its inception in 1986, Gorilla Doctors has worked closely with the Government of Rwanda to support the health of the habituated mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park. When a gorilla is ill or injured, Gorilla Doctors provides life-saving veterinary care in the forest, never removing an individual from their gorilla family.

“It is a true privilege to be able to contribute to the conservation success of mountain gorillas, says Dr. Kirsten Gilardi, Executive Director of Gorilla Doctors and Director of the Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center. “While it is an international and ongoing collaborative effort, the foresight and leadership of Rwanda has served as a benchmark for government-led conservation on the continent of Africa and abroad. We are deeply honored to have our Board Chair representing Gorilla Doctors at this year’s Kwita Izina ceremony.”

Media Contacts

Amy Bond, Gorilla Doctors – abond(at)

Doreen Ingabire, Rwanda Development Board – doreen.ingabire(at)