All is set for Kwita Izina 2023

A baby mountain gorilla, a member of the Agashya family, in the Sabyinyo Mountains of Rwanda. AFP PHOTO

What you need to know:

The Kwita Izina, an annual Gorilla Naming Ceremony is set to take place on September 1, 2023.

The 2023 Kwita Izina will mark the 19th edition of the prominent conservation event, which has become one of the major highlights on the African tourism calendar.

The ceremony will be held at Kinigi Village, located on the foothills of Volcanoes National Park Rwanda in Musanze District formerly known as Ruhengeri.

In addition to the ceremony Rwanda hosts a week-long program of activities that aim at creating awareness as well as generating funding for conservation projects.

It is believed that by giving the baby gorilla a name, the community given the value it deserves. The names given are Kinywarwanda and always carry a cultural meaning or ancient custom.

The ceremony is also an opportunity to thank the local communities that live adjacent to the park, researchers, conservationists, park rangers as well as trackers who protect the mountain gorillas. The event also attracts local students who are future custodians of the environment and natural resources.

Kwita Izina – A Big Tourism Event

The Kwita Izina Ceremony is deeply rooted in Rwandan culture; just as the community gathers to celebrate and name a newborn child, this same tradition was adapted for the mountain gorillas, rare great apes that are native to Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Introduced in 2005, Kwita Izina aimed to raise awareness about the conservation of endangered mountain gorillas. According to the Rwanda Development Board, a distinguished list of namers has already been prepared for the 18th edition of the Annual Gorilla Naming ceremony.

Kwita Izina is a free event. It is operated on a basis of invitations as well as prior registration of interested participants from around the world. In order to take part, you can contact Rwanda development board for more details.

Over the years, the Kwita Izina Ceremony has gained global recognition, attracting thousands of international, regional, and local visitors. Last year's event, the 18th edition, witnessed a massive turnout of tens of thousands of attendees, including locals, tourists, celebrities, and nobles. The chief namer was Charles, the now-crowned King of England.

During the event, many visitors also take tours of Rwanda, not only to Volcanoes National Park but also to other remarkable tourist sites in the country. Vincent Ngarambe, a local tour operator, emphasizes that Kwita Izina is a significant tourism event that deserves promotion.

The event not only attracts tourists to the mountain gorillas but also to other national parks including Nyungwe National Park, a famous spot for chimpanzee tracking and Akagera National Park, the only savanna national park in Rwanda.

Commendable Success in Conservation

Rwanda's success in gorilla conservation is truly commendable. In December 2022, Rwanda was recognized as one of the top four countries in managing the preservation of endangered species during the United Nations Biodiversity Conference held in Montreal, Canada.

While there are reports of decline in ape populations, the mountain gorillas are on the rise. The most recent census conducted in the Virunga Massif, which safeguards Rwanda's gorillas, reported a rise in the gorilla population to 604 individuals. With a further 459 registered in Bwindi, the population of the mountain gorillas surpass 1060 individuals and the International Union for Conservation of nature reclassified the species from ‘critically endangered’ to ‘endangered’ in 2018.

This positive outcome is the result of the collective efforts of national conservation authorities, supportive local communities residing near the park, and the international community.

Conservation remains a top priority in Rwanda, and the country is actively engaged in safeguarding wildlife from extinction. Last year, Rwanda initiated a project to expand Volcanoes National Park by 37.4 sq km, aiming to provide a better habitat for the endangered mountain gorillas. This expansion project, costing a projected US$255 million, intends to increase the park's size by 25%.

As a nation that has spearheaded gorilla conservation efforts, Rwanda warmly welcomes visitors from all around the world to join the 19th edition of Kwita Izina; an annual reminder that the population of the mountain gorillas in growing.

The fruit of the conservation efforts can be seen in the fact that through Rwanda’s conservation efforts have amounted to mountain gorillas moving from the status of critically endangered species to merely endangered species.