By Ronald Musoke
The Rwanda Development Board is expected to host this year’s gorilla naming ceremony on Sept.5.
At least 24 baby mountain gorillas are expected to be given names at the annual event which is now into its eleventh year.
The ceremony locally known as ‘Kwita Izina’ will be held at the foothills of the Virunga Mountains under the theme, “Conserving Now and For the Future.”
Thanks to the growing gorilla population, the event has become popular with both local and international tourists and thousands are expected to turn up for this year’s ritual.
“Gorilla naming is an important part of Rwanda’s conservation efforts,” said Yamina Karitanyi, the head of tourism & conservation at the Rwanda Development Board.
“The centuries-old tradition now serves to play a significant role in the monitoring of each individual gorilla in their habitat and with their families.”
“The Kwita Izina ceremony is a demonstration of the commitment to the conservation of Rwanda’s wildlife by the local communities, conservation groups, researchers, rangers, and tourists.”
Although gorilla naming— a uniquely Rwandan tradition— has always been a part of the country’s culture, ‘Kwita Izina’ was introduced in 2005 with the aim of creating awareness for the endangered mountain gorilla.
This year’s ceremony will take place as Rwanda carries out another general census of the gorilla population in the Virunga Massif.
The last report in 2010 showed encouraging growth in the gorilla population, registering a 26.3% growth in a period of seven years.
The Rwanda Development Board has been continuing their conservation efforts and expects to once again see growth in the gorilla population.
Prior to the naming ceremony, several programmes are expected to be held, among which include a new component, the Kwita Izina Award.
The Rwanda Development Board will bestow the Kwita Izina Award to celebrate achievements that have had a significant impact in improving tourism and the protection of the wildlife globally.
Awards will be given to recognize local conservationists for their life-time contributions to conservation and tourism. A business expo will also highlight the economic growth in Rwanda.
Rwanda’s tourism sector has enjoyed tremendous growth in the past 15 years, bringing in earnings of about $62 million at the turn of the millennium to over $300 million last year.
Mountain gorillas have been at the forefront of Rwanda’s tourist revival. Tourism is currently Rwanda’s highest foreign exchange earner.