On Friday September 1, the Rwanda Development Board hosted the 13th annual Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony in Kingi, Rwanda, a town nestled at the base of Volcanoes National Park. Kwita Izina is inspired by the traditional Rwandese naming custom following the birth of a new baby. In attendance for Kwita Izina 2017 was the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, and other prominent figures from the Rwandan government, international diplomats, celebrities and key players in gorilla conservation and the tourism industry. An estimated 500 international and 20,000 local people also attended the gorilla naming ceremony, enjoying traditional cultural performances and speeches.

This year’s theme was Conservation and sustainable tourism – a foundation for future generations”.  Kwita Izina has grown into a week-long celebration in Rwanda and this year, featured a conservation and tourism exhibition, a fundraising gala dinner and a “Conversation on Conservation” conference at the Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village.

In the past 12 years, 216 mountain gorilla babies have been given names. This year, an additional 14 baby gorillas born within the last 12 months in Volcanoes National Park were named. But it wasn’t only newborn gorilla babies that were given their names: this year, four adult females who transferred into habituated groups (from unhabituated mountain gorilla groups in DRC) were also named, as well as a new group that formed under the leadership of dominant silverback Marambo. Many of our followers have inquired about the names given to the babies this year. If you would like to learn the new names, you can visit the Rwanda Development board website here.

Some of the new mountain gorilla babies given their names in Kwita Izina 2017.

Every year, the Rwanda Development Board selects prominent individuals to announce the baby gorilla names. This year, a former Gorilla Doctor, Dr. Olivier Nsengimana, was given the honor of naming one of the babies! He named the new baby in Susa group “Inyange” which means “handsome and smart” in Kinyarwanda. Dr. Olivier won the prestigious ROLEX Awards for Enterprise in 2014 while with the Gorilla Doctors, and used the award funding to launch his own conservation project to save the endangered Grey Crowned Crane of Rwanda. Dr. Tara Stoinski, CEO of our partner organization the Fossey Fund, was also given the honor of naming a gorilla: she named the new baby in Titus group Macibiri. American businessman and passionate conservationist Mr. Howard Buffet, Chairman of the Howard G. Buffet Foundation, was in attendance as well to name the new baby in Mafunzo group. He named mother Ukure’s new infant Umutware. Other individuals selected to name gorillas were: Joe McDonald (Wildlife Photo Tour Operator), Andrew Muir (CEO of Wilderness Foundation Africa) Chloe Bello (Argentinean model) and Dr. Laetitia Nyinawamwiza (Principal CAVM of the University of Rwanda), among others.

Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park is home to an estimated two-thirds of the Virunga Massif population of 480 mountain gorillas, which spans Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. An additional 400 mountain gorillas live in the forested “island” of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. Gorilla Doctors’ field veterinarians work hard every day to monitor the health of all of the habituated mountain and Grauer’s gorillas in this expansive landscape. Our team is thrilled to see our life-saving work contribute to the continued growth of the eastern gorilla population.