Rwanda celebrates mountain gorilla conservation success by naming 24 baby gorillas on World Gorilla Day
Rwanda has celebrated this year’s World Gorilla Day by naming 24 baby mountain gorillas in a virtual celebration of the majestic endangered animals and the champions of conservation who protect them every day. Now in its 16th year, the ceremony, known as Kwita Izina, saw Rwandans, conservation partners, special guests and friends of Rwanda celebrate the occasion.
This year, the 24 baby mountain gorillas were named by staff who work in the gorilla’s natural habitat of Volcanoes National Park. They are the frontliners of conservation who protect and care for them and include park rangers, guides, wardens, trackers, porters and veterinary doctors. Arsenal first team players Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Hector Bellerin and Bernd Leno also joined the celebration by naming baby gorillas.
World Gorilla Day marks the day that gorilla conservationist Dian Fossey established the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda in 1967. It is a day that encourages people around the globe to join conservation efforts to protect gorillas in the wild.
This year’s virtual event featured updates from the field on how rangers, vets and researchers are protecting gorillas, performances by Rwandan artists and messages of support from rangers from across Africa.
The 24 baby gorillas named are members of the Mutobo, Pablo, Urugwiro, Musirikare, Mafunzo, Kuryama, Igisha, Amahoro, Kwitonda, Muhoza, Sabyinyo and Agashya groups.
“This year, we bring a special focus to the rangers, trackers, guides, vets and porters, who protect our precious mountain gorillas. Their dedication is reflected in the 24 baby gorillas, receiving their names today. Conservation, tourism and community development go hand in hand. Each reinforces the other. I commend people living around the park for being good stewards of the natural environment and such warm hosts for our visitors,” said President Paul Kagame.
“This year’s Kwita Izina is special in a way that we have chosen to go back to our history and tradition to name our baby gorillas just like it was done in the past, which is the people that spend a lot of time caring for these babies are the ones that are given the honour and privilege to name them. This year, we have chosen that the majority of the people naming the babies born over the last year will be the rangers, the trackers, the guides, the vets and all those who look after these animals on a day to day basis. This is our special and humble way of thanking them for ensuring the majestic mountain gorillas are conserved,” said Clare Akamanzi, Chief Executive Officer of the Rwanda Development Board.
“It’s a privilege for me to name little baby Iriza, which means ‘first born’. When you are the first born in your family, you feel a sense of responsibility and it’s indeed our responsibility to look after our wildlife,” said Arsenal first team player Hector Bellerin.
2020 Kwita Izina Gorilla Babies and Namers
Amabwiriza – ‘Guidelines’
- This baby male gorilla was born on 3 April 2020 to Iriba from the Muhoza family of mountain gorillas and was named by Fidele Nizeyimana, Tracker, Volcanoes National Park. The success of gorilla conservation is always highly dependent on the development of and compliance with rigorous conservation guidelines. Among gorilla visitation guidelines, it is recommended to observe a distance between the gorillas and visitors. This is crucial to avoid any risk of disease transmission between humans and gorillas. View a photo of Amabwiriza here.
Kazeneza – ‘Welcome’
- This baby male gorilla was born on 12 September 2019 to Akaramata from the Mutobo family of mountain gorillas and was named by Angelique Nikuze, Tracker, Volcanoes National Park. The baby’s mother, Akaramata, moved to this family just a few months before giving birth. Formed a year ago, this gorilla family is also new. This is the first baby born, not only to Akaramata, but also into this new family, which is one good reason why the baby is warmly welcomed. View a photo of Kazaneza here.
Nkomezamihigo – ‘Keep it up’
- This baby gorilla was born on 21 June 2020 to Ishyaka from the Mutobo family of mountain gorillas and was named by Prosper Kaberabose, Tracker, Volcanoes National Park. The name has been chosen to embody the resolve and motivation of the heroes of gorilla protection, specifically rangers and trackers, who never grow weary of their work protecting and monitoring gorillas – a prerequisite for the constant increase in the gorilla population. View a photo of Nkomezamihigo here.
Uwacu – ‘One of Us’
- This baby gorilla was born on 27 May 2020 to Isangano from the Pablo family of mountain gorillas and was named by Emmanuel Nzabonimpa, Tracker, Volcanoes National Park. When Isangano gave birth, she was surrounded and assisted by many other gorillas in the group, as if recognising and welcoming the newborn into the family as their own. View a photo of Uwacu here.
Murengezi – ‘Rescuer’
- This baby male gorilla was born on 11 May 2020 to Mudakama from the Urugwiro family of mountain gorillas and was named by Francois Xavier Ndugutse, Tracker, Volcanoes National Park. The major role of male gorillas is to protect their families, sometimes in difficult situations that can be regarded as “life-saving” moments. Currently, this group has only one male and this male infant is expected to greatly aid in protecting the family after reaching maturity. View a photo of Murengezi here.
Duhuze – ‘Unifier’
- This baby female gorilla was born on 8 August 2019 to Isaro from the Musilikale family of mountain gorillas and was named by Eric Kabeja, Volcanoes National Park. Gorilla tourism is one sector that connects Rwanda to the world. This name has been chosen as a gesture of our gratitude to everyone who has been connected to Rwanda through tourism in general and, in particular, gorillas. View a photo of Duhuze here.
Kororoka – ‘Prolific’
- This baby gorilla was born on 11 May 2020 to Ubufatanye from the Musilikale family of mountain gorillas and was named by Honorine Uwiragiye, Tracker, Volcanoes National Park. The mother, Ubufatanye, is one of the most exceptional gorilla mothers. She is a relatively young mother, yet she gave birth to three infants in just six years and manages to raise them all. This name recognises her contribution to mountain gorilla population growth. View a photo of Kororoka here.
Indiri – ‘Habitat’
- This baby gorilla was born on 21 September 2019 to Mahirwe from the Kuryama family of mountain gorillas and was named by Emmanuel Munyembabazi, Ranger, Volcanoes National Park. The survival and increase in the number of mountain gorillas depend on how well their home, the Virunga massif, is maintained. We aim to make everyone aware of their responsibility to see the park as their home, thus showing respect for it, just as they do for their own home. View a photo of Indiri here.
Ubushobozi – ‘Capacity’
- This baby gorilla was born on 21 Oct 2019 to Kanama from the Kuryama family of mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and was named by Solange Mugeni, Porter, Volcanoes National Park. This name recalls the impact of community empowerment enabled through the tourism revenue sharing scheme that increases literacy and provides benefits to communities living around the park. School infrastructure around the park is just one example of the implementation of the revenue sharing scheme. View a photo of Ubushobozi here.
Amarembo – ‘Gateway’
- This baby gorilla was born on 21 August 2019 to Faida from the Kuryama family of mountain gorillas and was named by Jean Damascene Hategekimana Tracker, Volcanoes National Park. Rwanda opens its doors to everyone. Our aspiration is that gorilla tourism should be considered as the main gate that is always open to welcome everyone to Rwanda. View a photo of Amarembo here.
Ihogoza – ‘Cute’
- This baby male gorilla was born on 2 May 2019 to Bikereri from the Igisha family of mountain gorillas and was named by Odile Nyiraguhirwa, Guide, Volcanoes National Park. The natural beauty of Rwanda used to be seen mainly from its magnificent hills. Now, biodiversity in our national parks, particularly mountain gorillas have amplified that beauty, becoming an important attraction for visitors for our country. View a photo of Ihogoza here.
Umusanzu – ‘Contribution’
- This baby female gorilla was born on 4 August 2019 to Urucyerereza from the Igisha family of mountain gorillas and was named by Marie-Louise Mbabazi, Community Based Conservation & Education Specialist, Rwanda Development Board. Revenue from gorilla tourism makes a significant contribution to the development of the country. Gorillas play a particularly important economic role as a source of employment and other income opportunities for communities living around the park. View a photo of Umusanzu here.
Nkerabigwi – ‘Achiever’
- This baby male gorilla was born on 17 December 2019 to Icyeza from the Igisha family of mountain gorillas and was named by Loyce Gashumba, Guide, Volcanoes National Park. This name serves to recognise the achievements made possible through Rwandans’ cooperation in and ownership of the conservation journey. The name embodies Rwanda’s commitment to economic transformation. View a photo of Nkerabigwi here.
Impinduka – ‘Change’
- This baby male gorilla was born on 5 September 2019 to Ihame from the Amahoro family of mountain gorillas and was named by Jean Bosco Iryamukuru, Guide, Volcanoes National Park. Mother Ihame joined the Amahoro group from an unhabituated group, managing to quickly change and become accustomed to human presence. View a photo of Impinduka here.
Isezerano – ‘Commitment’
- This baby male gorilla was born on 31 January 2020 to Muhabura from the Amahoro family of mountain gorillas and was named by Felicien Munyemanzi, Ranger, Volcanoes National Park. As gorilla protectors, we feel very honored and proud to be entrusted with this noble mission. Being motivated and dedicated to accomplish our mission, we take up the challenge This is the commitment we give to the world in general and, in particular, to our nation. View a photo of Isezerano here.
Nyiramajyambere – ‘Development’
- This baby female gorilla was born on 27 February 2020 to Urwunguko from the Kwitonda family of mountain gorillas and was named by Pelagie Mutuyimana, Tracker, Volcanoes National Park. Rwanda has embarked on the implementation of its Vision 2050 and Nyiramajyambere stands out as an example of the new generation living in a modern and digitised world. This new development involves all sectors, including tourism and conservation. View a photo of Nyiramajyambere here.
Ikamba – ‘Crown’
- This baby male gorilla was born on 30 September 2019 to mother Aheza from the Muhoza family of mountain gorillas and was named by Jacques Bisamaza, Porter, Volcanoes National Park. Rwanda has scooped many tourism awards and earned conservation recognition thanks to visionary leadership that works to integrate tourism and sustainable conservation. View a photo of Ikamba here.
Izabukuru – ‘Elderhood’
- This baby male gorilla was born on 30 October 2019 to Gukunda from the Sabyinyo family of mountain gorillas and was named by Francois Bigirimana, Guide, Volcanoes National Park. This name highlights that this baby was born when her mother Gukunda was very old. View a photo of Izabukuru here.
Ishya – ‘Contentment/ Satisfaction’
- This baby male gorilla was born on 11 November 2019 to Gukina from the Sabyinyo family of mountain gorillas and was named by Emmanuel Irakoze, Tracker, Volcanoes National Park. The Sabyinyo family was so happy and thrilled to welcome the new baby after three of its members went their separate ways into the wild. View a photo of Ishya here.
Umuyobozi – ‘Leader’
- This adventurous baby female gorilla was born on 27 October 2019 to Inyenyeri from the Agashya family of mountain gorillas and was named by Faustin Nibishaka, Tracker, Volcanoes National Park. This name recognises Rwanda’s commitment to leadership in conservation and tourism, from national leaders to community representatives. View a photo of Umuyobozi here.
Umuganga – ‘Gorilla Doctor’
- This baby female gorilla was born on 27 January 2020 to Inyungu from the Agashya family of mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and was named by Dr. Antoine Mudakikwa, Retired Veterinarian, Rwanda. This name recognises veterinarians’ unwavering work treating and saving gorillas. In particular, the name has been chosen for the baby in honor of retiring gorilla veterinarians for their long service, dedication and outstanding contribution to the protection of the mountain gorilla population. View a photo of Umuganga here.
Igitego – ‘Goal’
- This baby male gorilla was born on 5 July 2019 to Pasika from the Mafunzo family of mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and was named by Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. We consider gorilla conservation and tourism to be a win for our nation as a result of their contribution to Rwanda’s development. Better yet, gorillas are a godsend for local communities living around the park as they benefit them in a range of ways. View a photo of Igitego here.
Iriza – ‘First Born’
- This baby female gorilla was born on 11 October 2019 to Igihembo from the Kwitonda family of mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and was named by Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin. This infant is the first-born of Igihembo. First-borns always bring excitement to the family and we all wish them to grow and prosper. View a photo of Iriza here.
Myugariro – ‘Defender’
- This baby female gorilla was born on 28 September 2019 to Kubaha from the Amahoro family of mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and was named by Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno. This name highlights how the group engages in many interactions with non habituated gorilla groups and how the group silverbacks defend family members, and the role we all have to defend Mother Nature. View a photo of Myugariro here.
About Kwita Izina
The Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony is modelled on centuries old tradition in which Rwandans name their children in the presence of family and friends. 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.
In 2005, Rwanda began officially naming mountain gorillas in what has become a global celebration of nature. By giving a name to these majestic animals, we give them a value they undoubtedly deserve.
The ceremony is an opportunity to thank the communities that live around the gorilla habitat, Volcanoes National Park, our research partners, vets and the dedicated conservationists, rangers and trackers who protect the gorillas in rain, hail or shine, 365 days a year.
Over the last fifteen years, more than 300 mountain gorillas have been named and today Kwita Izina forms part of an ambitious strategy to preserve our natural heritage and further expand the role of eco-tourism in the country’s transformation. As a result of the naming ceremony, Rwandans from all walks of life understand the intrinsic value of gorillas as well as their contribution to the country’s economic prosperity. Rwandans have become gorilla guardians.
Overall, Rwanda has emerged as a conservation and sustainable tourism leader on the continent. For instance, while in the 2010 Census there were 480 mountain gorillas, the 2016 Census report indicated 604 individuals in the Virunga Massif, These efforts have contributed to the increase in number of mountain gorillas worldwide (1,004), and their categorisation as no longer critically endangered.
Learn more about Kwita Izina and meet the other gorilla babies and those naming them at www.visitrwanda.com/kwita-izina.
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