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Kwita Izina – A Ceremony to Name Baby Gorillas

Kwita Izina – A Ceremony to Name Baby Gorillas

The special Kwita Izina baby naming ceremony is dedicated to naming newborn gorillas and is hosted in Volcanoes National Park, Musanze – Kinigi each year.

The Kwita Izina gorilla Naming Ceremony is modelled off centuries – old tradition in which Rwandans name their children in the presence of family and friend, for three decades before the first official gorilla naming ceremony, park rangers and researchers named the mountain gorilla babies of Rwanda to monitor each gorilla in their family and habitat.

The official naming of mountain gorillas was started in 2005 which has now become a global conservation celebration in name, by giving a name to these majestic and beautiful animals. They are given the value they undoubtedly deserve.

First and foremost, this ceremony is an opportunity to thank the communities that live around the gorilla habitat, Volcanoes National Park. Research partners, vets and the dedicated conservationists, rangers and trackers who protect the gorillas daily.

Over the last fifteen years, more than 350 mountain gorillas have been named. The Kwita Izina forms part of an ambitious strategy to preserve Rwanda’s natural heritage and further expand the role of tourism in the country’s transformation. As a result of the naming ceremony, Rwandans from all the areas of the country understand the intrinsic value of gorillas and their contribution to the prosperity of the country’s economy. 

“Rwandans have become gorilla guardians”

Kwita Izina is being used as a great conservation tool to create awareness among the local people to know about the benfits of having gorillas near them, their existence as well as the importance of conserving the park and the mountain gorillas.

Note: it is important to know that 10% of the revenue, the government of Rwanda collects from gorilla trekking safaris in Volcanoes national park goes into developing the local communities around the park. Also, gorilla tourism has employed a lot of local people who work as park guides and tour guides, work in the safari lodges and sell food to the lodges and hotels. When you visit Volcanoes National Park and Rwanda for gorilla trekking, you are contributing to the development of the people and conservation of the mountain gorillas of Rwanda.

Rwanda has emerged as a conservation and sustainable tourism leader on the African continent, while in 2010 Census, there were 480 mountain gorillas and the 2016 census indicated 604 mountain gorillas in the Virunga Massif. These efforts have contributed to the increase in mountain gorillas world wide to 1,063 and now they are no longer critically endangered.

What You Need To Know About Kwita Izina Ceremony 

  • Kwita Izina is inspired by the ancient Rwandan traditional of naming a baby soon after its birth, during this ceremony, infant mountain gorillas that are born in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park during the previous year receive their names.
  • During the Kwita Izina Ceremony, infant mountain gorillas are named as well as one newly formed family
  • About 239 mountain gorillas have been named over the course of the Kwita Izina Ceremonies in Rwanda
  • Many high-profile people have had a chance to name the baby gorillas through the years such as former AWF CEO Patric Bergin had the high honor of naming a gorilla, he called her sacola.
  • Kwita Izina means “naming” in the Kinyarwanda language 
  • Kwita Izina is celebrated annually in September at the community grounds in Kingi, Musaze District right outside Volcanoes National Park, northwest of Kigali City.
  • At the Kwita Izina Festival, all baby mountain gorillas born in Volcanoes National Park the year before receive their names.
  • Kwita Izina started in 2015
  • Over 370 mountain gorillas have been maned at the Kwita Izina Festival since 2005
  • The Kwita Izina Ceremony is a chance for the Rwanda Develoment Board to express gratitude to the communities residing near Volcanoes National Park as well as research partners, veterinarians and the devoted conservationists, rangers and trackers who work tirelessly to safeguard the gorillas.
  • The recently concluded Kwita Izina Ceremony was hosted on 1st September 2023 and as part of the celebration, 23 baby gorillas born in the past 12 months were named.

High Profile Namers who Have attended The Kwita Izina Ceremony 

Through the years, the Kwita Izina Ceremony has been attended by numerous high-profile people from Hollywood stars, politicians, conservationists among others who have named the baby gorillas, these individuals are normally referred to as The Namers.

In the past Editions of Kwita Izina have been attended by prominent figures making indelible contributions.

  • In 2016, revered naturalists Sir David Attenborough graced the event and christened a baby gorilla Inshungu, symbolizing “blessing”.
  • In 2017, Dr. Stoinski chose the name “Macibiri” which is a homage to Dian Fossey whose Rwandan name “Nyiramacibiri” translate to the “woman who lives alone on the mountain’.
  • In 2018, Laureano Bisan Etamé-Mayer, a former Arsenal footballer, attended and named a baby gorilla “Ikipe’ meaning “team” alongside other evocative names like like Izahabu (‘precious’), Kunesha (‘to win’), and Uburumbuke (‘prosperity’).
  • In 2022, the then Prince of Wales. Currently the King of England attended the 18th Kwita Izina and named a baby gorilla “Ubwuzuzanye” which means “Harmony”.

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