Meet Rwanda’s baby gorillas on World Gorilla Day

Today, 24 September 2021, Rwanda will join the rest of the world to mark World Gorilla Day, the day renowned gorilla conservationist Dian Fossey established the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda in 1967, with their long-standing traditional Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony.

Now in its 17th year, Kwita Izina 2021 celebrates the naming of 24 baby mountain gorillas born in the country’s Volcanoes National Park over the last 12 months, on a day that encourages people around the globe to celebrate the conservation of the mountain gorillas and honour those who protect them daily in their habitat.

Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Photo: Kate Webster

The Rwanda Development Board (RDB) is pleased to announce that this year’s event will feature a virtual naming ceremony, held under the theme ‘Conservation and Sustainable Tourism – A Foundation for Future Generations’. The event was also taken virtual last year as a response to the global pandemic. This year’s namers will include notable partners, conservationists, international celebrities, dignitaries and friends of Rwanda.

Kwita Izina is modelled off a centuries-old tradition in which Rwandans name their children in the presence of family and friends. In 2005, Rwanda began officially naming mountain gorillas in what has become a global celebration of nature. By giving a name to these majestic animals, it gives them a value they undoubtedly deserve.

The ceremony is also an opportunity to thank the communities that live around Volcanoes National Park, the research partners, vets and the dedicated conservationists, rangers and trackers who protect the gorillas.

A park ranger stands watch to ensure the safety of the gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. Photo: Kate Webster

Over the last 17 years, 328 mountain gorillas have been named. As a result of conservation efforts in Rwanda such as Kwita Izina, the population of the endangered mountain gorilla has increased, with the latest census in 2018 counting over 1,000 gorillas. This is an increase from the previously counted 800.

The count revealed 604 mountain gorillas living in trans-boundary Virunga Massif in the Virunga Mountains. This vast area that covers Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda, previously counted 480. The remaining mountain gorillas live in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda. Here, the 2018 Bwindi-Sarambwe mountain gorilla survey found a minimum of 459 mountain gorillas, an increase from the previous survey estimate in 2011 of 400.

The estimated total world population of endangered mountain gorillas in 2018 was 1,063, a figure attributed to the effectiveness of conservation policies and strategies, including regulated tourism, daily protection and veterinary interventions, intensive law enforcement, community conservation projects, and transboundary collaboration.

Conservation is Life in Rwanda. Photo: Kate Webster

The virtual ceremony will feature updates on Rwanda’s conservation efforts including the population growth of the mountain gorillas and the need to expand their habitat and community support to improve community livelihoods while enabling wildlife conservation.

Speaking at a press conference in Rwanda, RDB Acting Chief Tourism Officer Ariella Kageruka said they are excited to hold the 17th Kwita Izina event despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year we celebrate the gains made in our conservation efforts, notably the increase in our gorilla population and the newly opened Gishwati-Mukura National Park, Rwanda’s fourth National Park and UNESCO biosphere reserve. We also celebrate the park communities whose lives have been transformed through the Tourism Revenue Share Programme.”

RDB Acting Chief Tourism Officer Ariella Kageruka

Commenting on the importance of Kwita Izina and conservation efforts, Governor of the Northern Province in Rwanda, Dancila Nyirarugero said, “Thanks to the benefits of the Tourism Revenue Share Program, communities living around the parks today understand the importance of tourism and conservation. Today, these communities minimise human-wildlife conflict and poaching and other illegal activities are at the lowest levels in Rwanda’s national parks. They are ready to join the Government and other partners in expanding the habitat of the mountain gorillas through the expansion program of Volcanoes National Park and look forward to participating in this year’s Kwita Izina ceremony.”

Concluding on the role the private sector plays in Rwanda’s tourism and conservation, Chairperson of the Rwanda Travel and Tour Association, Bonita Mutoni, said, “Kwita Izina is a fantastic conservation event which the private sector has always participated in and we look forward to inviting a lot of travel agents and other partners to come and learn about Rwanda’s conservation story and contribute to that. Our key message to them is that when you choose to visit Rwanda, you choose conservation.”

To watch the baby gorillas receive their names, viewers can tune in to the Visit Rwanda YouTube Channel to watch the Kwita Izina event at 6:00pm CAT.

Meet the baby gorillas

Female mountain gorillas can produce young beginning at age 10. They carry one or two babies at a time and give birth after a 8.5-month gestation period. In general, they will bear between two and six offspring in a lifetime. Newborn gorillas weigh about 1.8 kg (4 lb.) and are classed as infants until they reach around three-and-a-half years old, and adults from around 8 years. 

At this year’s virtual Kwita Izina ceremony, 24 baby gorillas that call Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park home will be named by special guests, conservation partners and many more. We will update the below list after the event with the names, their meaning and their namer – so do check back again tomorrow.

At this year’s virtual Kwita Izina ceremony, 24 baby gorillas that call Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park home will be named by special guests, conservation partners and many more.

Africa’s Son | Isimbi Family

This male baby gorilla was born on 3 January 2021 to mother Africa from the Isimbi family of mountain gorillas.

Ejoheza’s Son | Isimbi Family

This male baby gorilla was born on 6 January 2021 to mother Ejoheza from the Isimbi family of mountain gorillas.

Ijambo’s Son | Igisha Family

This male baby gorilla was born on 11 December 2020 to mother Ijambo from the Igisha family of mountain gorillas.

Ikaze’s Daughter | Musilikale Family

This female baby gorilla was born on 6 February 2021 to mother Ikaze from the Musilikale family of mountain gorillas.

Impano’s Son | Igisha Family

This male baby gorilla was born on 8 January 2021 to mother Impano from the Igisha family of mountain gorillas.

Inkubito’s Son | Muhoza Family

This male baby gorilla was born on 7 January 2021 to mother Inkubito from the Muhoza family of mountain gorillas.

Ishema’s Son | Pablo Family

This male baby gorilla was born on 12 July 2021 to mother Ishema from the Pablo family of mountain gorillas.

Kubana’s Daughter | Kureba Family

This female baby gorilla was born on 12 December 2020 to mother Kubana from the Kureba family of mountain gorillas.

Kurudi’s Daughter | Titus Family

This female baby gorilla was born on 18 April 2021 to mother Kurudi from the Titus family of mountain gorillas

Magayane’s Son | Hirwa Family

This male baby gorilla was born on 27 June 2021 to mother Magayane from the Hirwa family of mountain gorillas.

Munezero’s Son | Agashya Family

This male baby gorilla was born on 14 June 2021 to mother Munezero from the Agashya family of mountain gorillas.

Nchili’s Daughter | Kwitonda Family

This female baby gorilla was born on 29 August 2020 to mother Nchili from the Kwitonda family of mountain gorillas.

Ndimubanzi’s Daughter | Kwitonda Family

This female baby gorilla was born on 20 August 2020 to mother Ndimubanzi from the Kwitonda family of mountain gorillas.

Nezerwa’s Daughter | Amahoro Family

This female baby gorilla was born on 18 June 2021 to mother Nezerwa from the Amahoro family of mountain gorillas.

Nzeli’s Son | Kureba Family

This male baby gorilla was born on 13 November 2020 to mother Nzeli from the Kureba family of mountain gorillas.

Okapi’s Daughter | Kwitonda Family

This female baby gorilla was born on 1 January 2020 to mother Okapi from the Kwitonda family of mountain gorillas.

Rugira’s Son | Musilikale Family

This male baby gorilla was born on 30 July 2020 to mother Rugira from the Musilikare family of mountain gorillas.

Tegereza’s Son | Ntambara Family

This male baby gorilla was born on 24 December 2020 to mother Tegereza from the Ntambara family of mountain gorillas.

Turiho’s Son | Muhoza Family

This male baby gorilla was born on 26 February 2021 to mother Turiho from the Muhoza family of mountain gorillas.

Umoja’s Daughter | Hirwa Family

This female baby gorilla was born on 18 December 2020 to mother Umoja from the Hirwa family of mountain gorillas.

Umujyanama’s Daughter | Pablo Family

This female baby gorilla was born on 9 February 2021 to mother Umujyanama from the Pablo family of mountain gorillas.

Ururabo’s Son | Igisha Family

This male baby gorilla was born on 6 July 2021 to mother Ururabo from the Igisha family of mountain gorillas.

Karema’s Son | Sabyinyo Family

This male baby gorilla was born on 25 January 2021 to mother Karema from the Sabyinyo family of mountain gorillas.

Baby Gorilla Images: Rwanda Development Board.


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Kate Webster is a world traveller, ocean lover and conservation warrior who is determined to make every moment count for not only herself, but the world around her. An editor and travel journalist, Kate travels the globe in search of vivid imagery and compelling stories that capture the essence of the people and places she visits. She is a passionate conservation advocate, sustainable traveller and always travels with reason and cause.

kate@capturedtravel.com