Kwita izina is a yearly gorilla naming ceremony in Rwanda that was formed in 2005 with the major goal to increase gorilla conservation efforts and monitoring Rwanda’s gorillas numbers. This is also greatly benefited local tourism business and conservation education.
Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills is among the only 3 places on earth where mountain gorillas live. Volcanoes national park in the north is a home to over 200 gorillas which are part of the virunga conservation area including Uganda and DRC.
Mountain Gorillas are the main tourist attractions in Rwanda and have attracted many tourists. Gorilla tourism is driving economic growth in Rwanda through revenues and local community Conservation. This is a reflection of the growing number of the critically endangered mountain gorilla population as an achievement of sustainable tourism development and conservation.
As a result of increased tourism, human threats to gorillas also increase especially human disease transmission. In addition to poaching and habitat loss, Rwanda created “Kwita izina” as a strategy to monitor its gorilla population.
Since 2005when the Kwita Izina was introduced, about 216 baby gorillas has been given names which plays an important role in monitoring the gorillas in the habituated families and their habitat range. Last year, the event rocked Musanze witnessed on 2nd, September 2016, the naming of nineteen baby gorillas including a pair of twins.
Since 2005, the gorilla naming ceremony has grown into a yearly event attracting many local and international visitors. The 2015 celebrations saw a massive attendance of 500 international guests and over 20,000 local people.
Many guests who come for the ceremony find it interesting to arrange excursions around Kigali city visiting attractions such as genocide memorial sites, museums, craft markets, cultural events and to the national parks such as Akagera national, Nyungwe forest national park.
Naming new born gorillas is a way of recording the increase in the population of mountain gorillas in the virunga mountains region partly because of strong conservation that has put an end to human activities like poaching, habitat encroachment, illegal wildlife trade and human diseases transmission.
The Rwandan Development Board (RDB) which governs tourism in Rwanda, carried out a population census of gorillas in volcanoes national park between 2010- 2014 and results indicated a 26 % increase of gorilla numbers from less than 250 to about 400 individual gorillas.
Meanwhile, the board is currently undertaking another census of mountain gorilla population in volcanoes national park as expected to announce results during next year’s celebrations.
The baby gorilla naming ceremony is a way of raising awareness of protecting and conserving mountain gorillas on a national, regional and international level. People will share ideas on how to promote Rwanda as a leading eco tourism destination beyond the mountain gorillas. Rwanda has 4 national parks, several rift valley lakes such as Lake Kivu and high altitude tropical volcanic mountains which remain undiscovered.
According to the Rwandan Development Board (RDB), managing wildlife including mountain gorillas won’t be the role of the government in isolation but rather intentional partnerships bringing together the private sector, local communities and the youth.
The yearly conversation on conservation forums feature a series of proceeding activities which have evolved from the previous Kwita Izina celebrations. These have educated local and foreign visitors in Rwanda to collectively conserve wildlife especially gorillas.
the yearly pre and during event activities are always open for all guests include; naming baby gorillas ceremony, tourism exhibitions, launching of community development projects building on last year’s projects and a fundraising dinner which will take place at Kigali international convention centre.
These activities are geared towards getting practical solutions to challenges facing conservation of mountain gorillas and other wildlife from which tourism in Rwanda depend on.
As one of the greatest conservation achievements, it’s worth celebrating the harmony of nature and people. Several community projects have been set up around Volcanoes National Park to enhance visitor experience. The Iby ‘iwacu cultural village is one of the successful community conservation projects displaying Rwandan traditional culture. Visitors to this cultural village can take part in traditional activities such as local food preparation, fire making and banana beer brewing along with unique entertainment by intore (warrior) dance performances.