This year’s Kwita Izina, the infant gorilla naming annual ceremony was held with a difference that highlighted to innovativeness of the organisers, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
This year, the Kwita Izina events included the first ever Kwita Izina Conservation and Tourism Exhibition. Held in Kigali over a three-day period starting Aug. 27, the event attracted participants from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, not to mention the many local public and private entities that exhibited.
In a fitting prelude to the 12th gorilla naming ceremony, local participants at the Kigali event exhibited Rwanda’s tourist attraction while their visitors from other countries showcased tourism packages from their countries.
The aim of the exhibition was to offer a platform to raise awareness about the conservation efforts of exhibiting countries and also promote the different destinations.
A dialogue on Conservation and the Kwita Izina Series marked the climax of the exhibition leading into the Gorilla naming Ceremony in Kinigi, Musanze District.
The events around it included the first ever Kwita Izina fundraising gala dinner which raised Rwf25 million for the conservation effort.
About 400 people are said to have attended among them government officials, members of diplomatic corps, conservationists from across the world and private sector players and citizens.
Guests were entertained with cameo performances from Mashirika arts, jazz music from Ugandan maestro Isaiah Katumwa, and popular beats by Nigerian singer Wizkid.
Commenting on the exhibition, RDB CEO Francis Gatare told journalists that it would now be part of the annual event.
“We will continue to organise it and grow with it,” he said and urged conservationists, exhibitors, and tour operators from all over the world to mark the date on their 2017 calendar.
The gorilla naming ceremony is the most important annual national conservation and tourism event on the Rwandan calendar. At least 216 baby gorillas have been named since 2005.
“It is not only a celebration of our conservation success story, but a hybrid platform of events and a series of activities focused on conservation and sustainable tourism,” said Belise Kariza, the chief tourism officer at the RDB.
Kariza commented on the theme for this year, `Conservation is life’ which she said “is a strong statement”.
“This is a way to make the population of Rwanda and even the international community aware that our conservation efforts are getting stronger, and it is proven by the increasing number of baby gorillas we name each year,” she told journalists at the event.
Of the 800 mountain gorillas in Virunga Transboundary, 440 are in Rwanda, and the trend has been growing for the last 12 years, according to Kariza.
The Kwita Izina event, which was this year held in Kinigi, northern Rwanda, was equally colourful and successful. Tourism generated US$318 million for Rwanda in 2015, a 4 percent increase compared to that of 2014. The RDB estimates to that this year Tourism earnings will increase by 5 or 6 percent.