The 16th Gorilla Naming Ceremony -‘Kwita Izina’ in Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills, was an event everyone was wondering how it would unfold.
Kwita Izina is the annual ceremony to name newly born baby gorillas and this year, 24 babies were named including 15 baby boys and 9 baby girls.
For the first time, the event did not take namers and several celebrities to Musanze, home to the rare mountain gorillas for the colorful event-the event was held virtually to avoid the spread of the COVID-19.
Namers were largely those people who stayed with the gorillas and never abandoned them, not even during the hardest period where everyone had to stay at home due to COVID-19 lockdown.
Rwanda has 360 gorillas grouped in 21 families where gorilla silverback is always the chief and can be “polygamy’ and father of male and female children.
Namers included rangers, porters, guides, trackers and a retired veterinarian who has a great history with the gorillas.
Those are people who have a great history with the primates which are available only in the volcano massif that stretch between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Some loved the gorillas because they saw their fathers’ contribution to their lives when they were children, others were just in love with the gorillas since childhood.
“The way I joined? My father was doing this job and since childhood, I vowed to follow his steps and here I am, my dream came true,” said Angelique Nikuze, Tracker, Volcanoes National Park.
From a documentary that was aired from public television-RTV, it is clear that Nikuze and her colleagues do a very good job where they always track gorillas and know the whereabouts of every individual primate.
They then report to the veterinaries and laboratory analysts like Jean Paul Hirwa from Gorilla Fund International.
“They record all information from every single gorilla; know which one is sick, which one is not doing well and they report to the park officials for action,” Hirwa said.
“If gorillas are increasing, having offsprings, is because we have trackers. Hadn’t we have trackers, gorillas would extinct.”
If one says that trackers play a very big role in the preparation and making Kwita Izina possible, they wouldn’t be wrong.
According to Hirwa, trackers have the skills that allow them to know every individual gorilla and their age, from the youngest to the eldest one.
“On the gorilla’s nose, there is a mark which trackers read and understand the age of gorilla,” Hirwa said. “None else can understand it, only them.”
When the time to name baby gorillas came, Nikuze gave a baby gorilla the name Kaze neza ‘Welcome’ and the name, like all others, has a meaning and interesting history behind it.
The story is thus told by people who saw the gorilla give birth and handled the baby, right at birth.
“She is Welcome because she brought good news to the family of Mutobo; the mother gave birth to this baby a couple of days after joining the family,” said Nikuze.
“She is the firstborn in the family of Mutobo which was formed barely one year ago.”
The virtual Kwita Izina was not meant to disappoint- It was rather an opportunity to document the beauty and tourism products that are available in the volcanoes national park, including gorilla trekking.
Bosco Iryamukuru and his colleague Odile who are tour guides took the tourists to see the family of Mahoro.
Apart from trackers however, everyone in the Volcanoes National Park matters.
While giving the closing remarks at this virtual event, President Paul Kagame said: “This year, we bring special focus, to the rangers, trackers, vets, guides and porters who protect our precious mountain gorillas. Their dedication is reflected in the 24 baby gorillas receiving their names today,” Kagame said.
The president said that conservation, tourism, and community development go hand in hand and each reinforces the other.
“I commend people living around the park for being good stewards of the natural environment and such a warm host for our visitors,” the president said.
The president thanked three Arsenal Players who participated at Kwita Izina.
“Three great Arsenal players are leaving their mark on a new generation of baby gorillas today: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Bernd Leno and Hector Bellerin,” Kagame said.
“Arsenal is a good partner in our effort to show the importance of conservation, and why visiting Rwanda is such a special experience.”
The president was thankful to other partners of Rwanda’s conservation efforts, and all tourists, including Rwandans who continued to visit every good thing the country offers after a total lockdown was removed.