Kwita Izina 2018, Rwanda’s annual baby gorilla naming ceremony, is slated for September 7th in Kinigi sector, near the entrance to the Volcanoes National Park.
Launched in 2005 and now in its 14th edition, Kwita Izina derives from Rwanda’s time-honored tradition in which families hold a ceremony to name newborn babies.
The ceremony’s main goal is to help monitor each individual gorilla and their groups in their natural habitat. It was started as a way of appreciating – both locally and internationally – the importance of protecting the critically endangered mountain gorillas.
The event, organised by Rwanda Development Board (RDB), will include the naming of 23 baby gorillas for this year’s event. 258 baby gorillas have been named since the ceremony was introduced in 2005.
The personalities selected to name the baby gorillas for this year’s event include both Rwandan and international conservationists, diplomats, sports personalities and renown philanthropists.
This year, the gorilla naming will be held under the theme; ‘Conservation is Life’.
The event has been credited for raising awareness of the endangered species, whose population in their habit, the Virunga Massif – had risen to 604 by 2016, up from 480 in 2010.
The Virunga Massif comprises the Mikeno Sector of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.
Selected to name baby gorillas at Kwita Izina 2018 are:
1.His Highness Sheikh Dr. Abdulaziz Ali Bin Rashid Al Nuami: Known as the ‘Green Sheikh’, he has dedicated his life to traveling and environmental stewardship.
- Strive Masiyiwa: Strive Masiyiwa is a Zimbabwean businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is the founder and executive chairman of diversified international telecommunications, media and technology group Econet Wireless and Econet Media.
- Madame Graca Machel: She is the former First Lady of South Africa and Mozambique. Graca Machel is an international advocate for women’s and children’s rights.
- Laureano Bisan Etamé-Mayer: Laureano Bisan Etamé-Mayer, commonly known as Lauren, is a retired Cameroonian footballer, who played as a right back for the Cameroonian national team and Arsenal FC. He was a member of 49-game unbeaten Invincibles team.
- Samba Bathily: A Malian philanthropist, Samba is CEO of Solektra International and co-founder of Akon Lighting Africa with international Akon and Thione Niang.
- Alexandra Virina Scott: Alexandra Virina Scott, is a retired English footballer who mostly played as a right-back for Arsenal Women. She made 140 appearances for the English national team and also represented Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympics.
- Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam: He is an American singer, songwriter, businessman, record producer and actor of Senegalese descent.
- Dr. Noeline Raondry Rakotoarisa: She is the Program Chief of Capacity Building and Partnerships Section- UNESCO/MAB (Man and Biosphere).
- Adrian Gardiner: South African Adrian Gardiner is the founder and chairman of Mantis, a family-run collection of privately-owned hotels, eco escapes and lifestyle resorts located around the world, with a large presence in Africa.
- Michael O’Brien-Onyeka: Michael is the Senior Vice President of Conservation International for Africa, a non-governmental conservation and sustainable development organization.
- Thomas Krulis: He is the Coordinator – Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) coordinator and CEO, Loto Investments.
- Hong Liang & Xinyu Zhang: The celebrity couple are hosts of the popular online travel programme called ‘Lu Xing’ (On the Road).
- Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall: Hugh is the Vice President, Flora & Fauna International- UK. He is an English celebrity chef, television personality, journalist, food writer and campaigner on food and environmental issues.
- Peter Riedel: Peter is the President and COO of Rhode Schwarz International, an international electronics group specialized in the fields of electronic test equipment, broadcast & media as well as cybersecurity.
- Alexa Gray: Alexa is representing the Gordon and Patricia Gray Animal Welfare Foundation. The Gordon and Patricia Gray Animal Welfare Foundation is a supporter and donor for the VNP Expansion Program through the Africa Wildlife Foundation.
- Michael Wale: Michael is the Group CEO of Kerzner International, a company that develops and manages luxury resorts, residences and integrated entertainment resorts.
- Ambassador Peter H. Vrooman: Peter is the US ambassador to Rwanda.
- Rao Hongwei: He is the ambassador of the Peoples Republic of China
- Theo Kgosinkwe & Nhlanhla Nciza: The duo, known as Mafikizolo, are three-time winners of the South African Music Award for Group or Duo of the Year.
- Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo: He is the former president of Nigeria
- Odette Nyiramongi: She is the proprietor of Paradis Malahide Resort, an eco-friendly hotel in Rubavu.
- Jeannette Uwiragiye: In 2017, Jeannette graduated as the best female student in the Department of Forestry Conservation, IPRC- Kitabi.
- Judith Kakuze: A former porter at the Volcanoes National Park, Judith is now on the Advisory Committee of the Volcanoes National Park Porter Association. In addition, she is a member of the Advisory Council of Kinigi Sector.
In addition to the gorilla naming ceremony, there are also other ongoing activities in the run-up to the event. Among the activities is the hosted familiarization trip for international tour operators and media which gives RDB the opportunity to showcase Rwanda’s diverse tourism attractions and unique cultural heritage.
The familiarization tour itineraries include visits to cultural heritage attractions such as the King’s Palace in Nyanza, Nyungwe, Akagera, Volcanoes National Parks as well as Lake Kivu.
This year’s ceremony will close with Igitaramo, “a cultural celebratory dinner whose objective is to fundraise in support of Rwanda’s ongoing successful conservation projects more particularly the ‘Expansion of the Gorilla Habitat’.