It is early as we head to the Kwita Izina ceremony that is being held in the foothills of the Virunga Mountains in Kinigi, Rwanda. This is the 12th gorilla naming ceremony of its kind and I am fortunate enough to be included in the guest list along with thousands of locals, who are making their way to the ceremony in anticipation of seeing their President, Mr Paul Kagame. I am told we are very privileged to have the chance of seeing the President as he isn’t always able to attend. I find this strange; from what I’ve learnt and seen so far in this wonderful little country, conservation especially of the gorillas is very close to his heart.
As a result of his attendance, security is tight as we make our way to our seats. The ceremony kicks off with festivities including music and some acrobatics from a local team. The president arrives and as he greets his people, it is clear that he is a much loved and well respected man.
Rwanda’s conservation effort is a success story. There are twenty-two baby gorillas that are to be named at today’s ceremony. With a total of two hundred and sixteen baby gorillas already named, it is a clear indication that the Rwandan gorilla population is on the rise.
The baby naming ceremony starts, with a number of conservationists and key tourism industry players having the honour of naming the babies. Some of the given names include Ukwiyunga (unity), Ishimwe (pride), Umuhate (bravery) and Ntibisanzwe (remarkable). African people delight in naming their babies after characteristics they hope to see in them. Thus it is in keeping with their culture that gorilla babies are given such expressive names.
President Kagame concludes by highlighting the importance of conservation, not only in Rwanda but worldwide. The continuing work of a small band of dedicated people has created one of the rare success stories in endangered wildlife conservation. Dian Fossey would be proud.