Rwanda’s flagship annual gorilla naming ceremony called ‘Kwita Izina” took place on the 1st of September 2017. Nineteen gorillas received names during the colorful event held near the country’s famous Volcanoes Natioal Park.
The ‘Kwita Izina ‘event is meant to raise awareness on conservation and celebrate the country’s tourism achievements, as gorilla trekking has become the most foreign exchange earner for the Rwandan economy.
According to The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, a conservation organization operating in the Volcanoes Park, most of the named gorillas were infants born in the past year. But a few were adult gorillas who joined the monitored gorilla groups during the same time period from groups that have not been monitored – sometimes from over the border in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
The virunga Massif is shared by Rwanda, Uganda and The Democratic republic of Congo; and it is home to one third of the world’s remaining population of endangered gorillas.
Speaking at the 13th ceremony, Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame told thousands of Rwandans and guests at the event that gorillas shouldn’t be taken for granted and it should be everyone’s responsibility to protect them.
The President was quoted as saying: “They (gorillas) are our legacy. They are happy in their habitat; the Silverback feels he is the king and even as president, we still have to be humble and respect them,”
“Gorillas are precious and we have to do our best to protect their habitat, like all other animals in the wildlife across the country.”
Gorilla tourism remains the backbone of Rwanda’s tourism and conservation industry.
Ms.Belize Kaliza, Chief Tourism Officer at the Rwanda Development Board said recently during this year’s Kwita Izina launch, Rwanda shall continue to leverage on platforms such as Kwita Izina, by joining hands with experts in conservation to ensure the long term sustainability of endangered species.
This year marks the 13th edition of the annual popular event in conservation which brings together conservation enthusiasts from all over the world to celebrate Rwanda’s success in protecting endangered species.
The theme of this year is “Conservation and sustainable tourism – a foundation for future generations” – confirming the country’s focus in enhancing awareness on sustainably maintaining biodiversity.
‘Kwita Izina’ attracted hundreds of conservationists from across the world.
Some of the guests who named 19 baby gorillas include Laurent Lamo the former Prime Minister of Haiti, Nollywood actress Patience Ozokwor, Veronica Varekova, a super model and conservationist, among others including Gisa Gakwisi the boy who molded Radisson Blu and Kigali Convention Centre out of clay.
This year, Rwanda has increased its investment in community development in areas surrounding the parks from 5 percent to 10 percent of tourism revenues. The revenue sharing scheme is meant to raise awareness on conservations.
Two community projects in education and one healthcare project have been inaugurated around the three major National Parks in Rwanda.
According to Rwanda Development Board, since the initial launch of Kwita Izina in 2005, a total of 239 mountain baby gorillas have been named.
Official data show the number of people visiting Volcanoes National Park has more than doubled from 16,000 to 32,000 between the year 2010 and 2016.
Likewise, tourism alone contributes 30 percent of exports in Rwanda and 3 percent of the country’s total GDP.
Words by Jean-Pierre Afadhali
Edited by Sam Adeleke
Pictures by Sam Adeleke