Graced by the First Lady of Rwanda, Jeannette Kagame, the 19th Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony held on Friday 1st September 2023, brought together distinguished namers, friends of Rwanda, special guests and tens of thousands of people from the communities surrounding Volcanoes National Park.
The 23 baby gorillas were named by conservation champions, community heroes, sports stars, industry leaders and international artists and celebrities.
The ceremony featured Rwandan musicians and a performance with almost 180 artists from the Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company that celebrated 19 years of Kwita Izina through the theme of consistency, growth, and expansion.
Speaking at the event, the First Lady of Rwanda, Jeannette Kagame highlighted that mountain gorillas represent more than a source of tourism, or adventurous entertainment.
"To us, our gorillas are the custodians of a nature we cherish. Rwanda’s efforts to protect its biodiversity have been multi-faceted, and multi-purposed. From local and international advocacy, to the creation and expansion of national parks, no stone is being left unturned,“ she stated.
Clare Akamanzi, Chief Executive Officer, Rwanda Development Board, stressed the need to invest in nature because the environment is the foundation of economy.
“This is why Rwanda invests heavily in building an eco-tourism industry that benefits both our people and our planet. I invite everyone to follow the journeys of the baby gorillas named today. Let their stories be a living testament of our commitment today,“ she said.
Since Kwita Izina began in 2005, 374 baby mountain gorillas have been named, and the population in the Virunga Massif has grown by 23%, according to the most recent census.
According to Michaella Rugwizangoga, Chief Tourism Officer, Rwanda Development Board, this remarkable achievement would not have been possible without the communities living around the park, dedicated conservationists and researchers as well as visionary leadership.