Rwanda honours gorillas in conservation event Kwita Izina

The 18th Kwita Izina Baby Gorilla Naming ceremony has wrapped up in Rwanda, with 20 baby gorillas given a name and one new gorilla family named.

Held in Kinigi at the foothills of Volcanoes National Park, this year’s international conservation event is the first time in person since 2019 following the Covid-19 pandemic that disrupted travel.

The namers joined local communities and visitors from around the world to celebrate the rangers, trackers, porters, vets and researchers that are vital in the conservation efforts at the home of the endangered mountain gorillas for the ceremony.

The local community celebrating Kwita Izina 2022. Photo Credit: Kate Webster – Captured Travel Media (Australia)

Since the Kwita Izina naming ceremony began in 2005, 354 baby gorillas have been named. As a result of conservation efforts, the number of gorillas has increased, making Rwanda home to one-third of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas.

The 20 baby gorillas are members of the Noheli, Musilikali, Ntambara, Mutobo, Igisha, Susa, Kureba, Pablo, Sabyinyo, Muhoza, Amahoro, and Hirwa families.

There was also a new gorilla family named Kwisanga, meaning to feel at home. Kwisanga group formed on 4 May 2021 as a result of a split. Led by silverback Kigoma, who along with 16 other gorillas, left Kwitonda group and have never returned. There was no interaction prior to the split, it just happened that Kigoma as well wanted to lead a group. Kwisanga’s 17 members include 2 Silverbacks, 3 Adult females, 2 Blackbacks, 2 Sub-adult males, 3 Juveniles and 5 Infants. 

Rwanda Kwita Izina 2022. Photo Credit: Kate Webster – Captured Travel Media (Australia)

Talking at the Kwita Izina event, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) chief executive officer Clare Akamanzi said this year’s Kwita Izina will be a celebration of conservation and the return of tourism.

“We’re delighted to be back in Kinigi in Rwanda’s Northern Province, near the habitat of these majestic creatures for Kwita Izina, two years since our last in-person ceremony. Initiatives such as the Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony play a major role in conserving gorillas. Thanks to Rwanda’s conservation efforts, we have improved the gorilla trekking experience for our visitors and increased the support to local communities through our Tourism Revenue Sharing programme.”

Rwanda Development Board (RDB) chief executive officer Clare Akamanzi

“We are happy to celebrate the safe return of tourism to Rwanda, after managing the Covid-19 pandemic well. We look forward to continuing to protect our natural heritage, providing world-class experiences that highlight the diverse natural beauty of Rwanda, while also ensuring that Rwandans benefit from tourism and conservation.”

Gorilla trekking is a big draw for tourists to Rwanda. Photo Credit: Kate Webster – Captured Travel Media (Australia)

According to RDB, Rwanda is targeting to collect at least $360 million (about Rwf372 billion) in tourism revenues this year, up from USD$164 million collected last year.

In the first half of this year, the sector has shown signs of recovery, with the government collecting at least USD$168 million between January and June.

In 2021, total tourism revenues were USD$164 million, a 25 per cent increase from USD$131 million in 2020. The country welcomed more than 512,000 international visitors in 2021.

Among famed global leaders, philanthropists, conservation champions, sports, music, and fashion stars was Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, who named one of the 20 baby gorillas in a virtual recording played at the event.

The Prince of Wales said he was “most touched” to participate in the Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony.

“The name I give him is Ubwuzuzanye, which means ‘harmony,’ since the restoration of harmony and balance between nature, people and planet is the most critical issue facing humanity that we must tackle with extreme urgency,” the royal, a dedicated conservationist, said.

“Otherwise these, and other magnificent creatures and their precious habitats will be lost forever.”

Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales,

Meet the baby gorillas

Rwanda Kwita Izina 2022 Baby Gorilla Namers. Photo Credit: Kate Webster – Captured Travel Media (Australia)

This year’s baby gorilla namers include Royalty, football legends, athletes, actors, musicians, vets, conservationists and more. Here are this year’s namers, along with their chosen names for the baby gorillas. 

The Prince of Wales (virtually)

Charles, Prince of Wales, is the heir apparent to the British throne as the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. He has been heir apparent as well as Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay since 1952 and is both the oldest and the longest-serving heir apparent in British history. He was last in Rwanda in June this year where he had come to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). He is known for his passion for conservation.

Baby Gorilla Ubwuzuzanye – ‘Harmony’

This baby was born on 29 April 2022 to Agasaro of the Muhoza family of mountain gorillas and was named by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. The name was chosen to raise awareness of the need for humanity to come together as one to protect our environment and achieve sustainable development.

Louise Mushikiwabo, Secretary-General of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie

She is the fourth and current Secretary General of La Francophonie. She previously served as Rwanda Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation for nine years from 2009 to 2018. She also served as Government Spokesperson. She had previously been Minister of Information.

Baby Gorilla Turikumwe – ‘We Are Together’

The Secretary-General of La Francophonie, Louise Mushikiwabo, had the honour of giving this name to a newborn baby gorilla from the Ntambara family to highlight the importance of working together to achieve successful conservation outcomes, and to recognise the many partners who contribute to protecting the mountain gorillas.

Neri Bukspan, Managing Director, Standard & Poor’s Credit Market Service

Neri oversees Standard & Poor’s accounting initiatives through advanced training, internal and external communications, and the establishment of a global internal accounting network. He supports Standard & Poor’s analysts, as well as CPAs and chartered accountants in the industry analytic teams in addressing the increasing complexity of emerging accounting and financial reporting matters. Neri joined Standard & Poor’s in 2002. Prior to that, he worked with Ernst & Young.

Baby Gorilla Indangagaciro – ‘Values’

Chosen to highlight the value Rwanda attaches to preservation and conservation, this name was given to Ubufantanye’s daughter from the Musilikare family of mountain gorillas born on 15 August 2021 in Volcanoes National Park. Neri Bukspan, the Managing Director of Standard & Poor’s Credit Market Service was honoured to give the name to the baby.

Didier Drogba, Chelsea Football Club Legend

He is an Ivorian retired professional footballer who played as a striker. He is the all-time top scorer and former captain of the Ivory Coast national team. He is best known for his career at Chelsea F.C where he scored more goals than any other foreign player and is currently the club’s fourth-highest goal scorer of all time.

Baby Gorilla Ishami – ‘Offspring’

Football legend Didier Drogba gave this name to a male baby gorilla that was born on 28 July 2022 to Twiyubake, a member of the Muhoza family of mountain gorillas living in Volcanoes National Park. The name symbolises the importance of the newborn gorillas as “offsprings” of expansion and growth.

Itzhak Fisher, Chairman, Rwanda Development Board

Besides being the board chairman of RDB, Fisher is an Israeli businessman who served as the Founder and General Partner of Pereg Ventures. He was previously Executive Vice President, Global Business Development at Nielsen Holdings. His responsibilities included strategic business development initiatives as well as all Mergers & Acquisitions and overseeing the Sports Practice. He was co-founder and Chairman of Trendum, before selling the new entity to the Nielsen company.

Baby Gorilla Intare – ‘Lion’

Named after the Chairman of the Rwanda Development Board, Itzhak Fisher’s Father-in-Law, a Holocaust survivor who was called Leo, which means lion, this male baby gorilla was born on 1 August 2022 and is a new member of the Hirwa family. The name was also chosen by Itzhak Fisher to recognise an important conservation milestone in Rwanda, the successful reintroduction of lions in Akagera National Park.

Kaddu Sebunya, CEO of the African Wildlife Foundation

Sebunya has 25 years of experience in conservation of nature and other related activities. In his work, he has raised a voice for the funding of an African-tailored conservation model. He previously worked with UNESCO in Paris, Water Aid, Oxfam, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Peace Corps, Conservation International, and Solimar International.

Baby Gorilla Indatezuka – ‘Resilient’

This name was chosen to highlight the resilience of the Rwandan people and the protection of the country’s biodiversity. It was given to Igitangaza’s daughter of the Mutobo group of mountain gorillas by the Chief Executive Officer of the African Wildlife Foundation, Kaddu Sebunya. The baby gorilla was born on 13 September 2021.

Gilberto Silva, Arsenal Football Club Legend

He is a Brazilian former professional footballer who played as a defensive midfielder most notably for English Premier League club Arsenal, Super League club Panathinaikos F.C., Clube Atlético Mineiro and the Brazil national team.

Baby Gorilla Impanda – ‘Trumpet’

Arsenal Football Club Legend, Gilberto Silva, gave the name to Umutungo’s son from the Sabyinyo family of mountain gorillas. The name was chosen to serve as a call to action for us all to play our part in protecting and restoring biodiversity.

Thomas Milz, Board Director, Sales and Marketing, Volkswagen Group South Africa & Sub-Saharan Africa

Thomas Milz joined VWSA’s Board of Management in December 2021. He has occupied various positions across the Volkswagen Group since 1997, in a career spanning Germany, USA, the Middle East and Russia. Prior to joining VWSA, he held the title of Director: Volkswagen Passenger Cars Russia and Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Countries.

Baby Gorilla Ruragendwa – ‘Hospitable’

The Board Director, Sales and Marketing, Volkswagen Group South Africa & Sub-Saharan Africa, Thomas Milz gave this name to a male baby mountain gorilla from the Noheli family that was chosen to recognize the welcoming nature of Rwandans, and the famous Rwandan hospitality visitors enjoy when visiting the country.

Naomi Schiff, Professional Racing Driver and Presenter

She is a Rwandan-Belgian racing driver and television presenter. She was born in Belgium, to a Belgian father and Rwandan mother, grew up in South Africa, and now lives in the United Kingdom. She is famously known as a race commentator. In 2020, Schiff was appointed as the diversity and inclusion ambassador for the W Series, and in 2022 she became a presenter for Sky Sports. Schiff began her career in single-seater racing cars at age 16 in 2010 in the Southern African Formula Volkswagen.

Baby Gorilla Imbaduko – ‘Vivacity’

Akamaro’s daughter from the Kureba family of mountain gorillas was born on 12 October last year and was named by Professional Racing Driver and Presenter, Naomi Schiff. The name was chosen to celebrate the unwavering commitment of the Rwandan people to the protection of the mountain gorillas.

Stewart Maginnis, Deputy Director General, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Stewart Maginnis is the Deputy Director General for Programmes in IUCN. Since 2008, he and his team have developed and promoted Nature-based Solutions as a framework for harnessing ecosystem management as a solution to socio-economic challenges. He has worked in sustainable development and biodiversity conservation for 35 years.

Baby Gorilla Nyirindekwe – ‘Protector’

This male baby gorilla was born on 21 January 2022 and was named by Stewart Maginnis, the Deputy Director General of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The name was chosen to celebrate the protective nature of the mountain gorillas, and their role as guardians of their forest habitat.

Uzoamaka Aduba, American actress and three-time Emmy Award winner

Aduba is known for her work on stage and screen which served her five Screen Actors Guild Awards, three Golden Globe Awards nominations and a Tony Award nomination. The 41-year-old Nigerian actress featured in films like Lightyear (2022), Miss Virgina (2019), and Orange Is the New Black (2013-2019), among others.

Baby Gorilla Imararungu – ‘Cheerful’

Chosen to represent the joyful and entertaining nature of gorillas, this name was given to Umuco’s daughter who was born on 4 August 2021. American actor, Uzo Aduba had the honour of naming her during today’s Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming ceremony.

Sauti Sol, Musical Band

Sauti Sol is a Kenyan band formed by vocalists Bien-Aimé Baraza, Willis Chimano and Savara Mudigi in 2005. Initially an a cappella group, guitarist Polycarp Otieno joined before they named themselves Sauti Sol. The band has had several successful tours in Africa and Europe, topped Kenyan charts and gained international attention with shows in Europe and the US, as well as television appearances and various accolades and nominations. They have performed in Rwanda several times and drawn quite an audience.

Gorilla Family – Kwisanga – ‘Feel At Home’

Kenyan musical band, Sauti Sol had the honour of naming a newly formed mountain gorilla family living in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park as a celebration of the peaceful splitting of the Kwitonda family that left both groups having an equal number of members. Since Kwisanga and Kwitonda were formed, the groups have met a number of times without any aggressive interactions, allowing members from the two families to meet and socialise.

Juan Pablo Sorin, Paris Saint-Germain Legend

He is an Argentine former footballer and current sports broadcaster, who played as a left-back or left midfielder. He had a successful club career in his native Argentina with River Plate, in Brazil with Cruzeiro, and with various teams in Europe, including Barcelona, Lazio, Paris Saint-Germain and Villarreal. At international level, he represented Argentina at two FIFA World Cups, and was the captain of Argentine side at the 2006 FIFA World Cup; he also represented his nation in two editions of Copa América.

Baby Gorilla Ikuzo – ‘Admirable’

Umwe’s daughter from the Noheli family was given this name by Paris Saint-Germain football legend, Juan Pablo Sorin to recognise the admirable and noble nature of Rwanda’s mountain gorillas. She was born on 13 December 2021.

Dr Evan Antin, renowned veterinarian and television presenter

He is a veterinarian and wildlife conservationist. He studied evolutionary and ecological biology at the University of Colorado.

Baby Gorilla Igicumbi – ‘Sanctuary’

Veterinarian and Television Presenter, Dr Evan Antin gave this name to a baby mountain gorilla from the Susa family. It is a name that celebrates Rwanda’s protected areas as sanctuaries of rich and unique biodiversity, and is a call to protect wild places all around the world.

Youssou N’Dour, Senegalese musician

N’Dour is a Senegalese singer, songwriter, musician, composer, occasional actor, businessman, and politician. He is also the Former Minister of Tourism of Senegal. The 62-years-old singer is expected to perform at Kwita Izina gala night.

Baby Gorilla Ihuriro – ‘Hub’

Umutuzo’s son that was born in May this year was given this name by legendary Senegalese musician, Youssou N’Dour. The name was chosen to showcase Rwanda as a vibrant hub for music, fashion and culture, as well as eco-tourism and investment.

Moses Turahirwa, Founder and Creative Director of Moshions

Turahirwa is the founder of one of the most popular luxury clothing brand in Rwanda, Moshions, and he is known for taking Rwanda’s fashion beyond borders.

Baby Gorilla Kwanda – ‘Expand’

With the growing need to expand the mountain gorilla habitat through the Volcanoes National Park Expansion Programme, this name was given to a male baby gorilla born on 12 October 2021 by Moses Turahirwa, Creative Director of Rwandan fashion brand, Moshions.

Lauren Powell Jobs, Founder and President of Emerson Collective

Powell is an American billionaire and widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. She invests her fortune in many areas including Emerson Collective, a hybrid investment, social impact and philanthropic firm she founded in 2004.

Baby Gorilla Muganga Mwiza – ‘Good Doctor’

Laurene Powell Jobs, Founder and President of Emerson Collective gave this name to Umwari’s baby gorilla from the Susa family in honour of the late Dr Paul Farmer – a great friend to Rwanda and a great friend to Laurene. Paul’s vision for a more just and equitable world lives on through the University of Global Health Equity and Partners in Health.

Cindy Descalzi Pereira, Philanthropist and Chairperson of Global Events Africa

Pereira was last in Rwanda to launch the first edition of Ironman Triathlon, which is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation.

Baby Gorilla Ubwitange – ‘Sacrifice’

This name was given to Nsanganira’s son of the Ntambara family of mountain gorillas by Philanthropist and Entrepreneur, Dr. Cindy Descalzi Pereira and chosen to recognize the selflessness and dedication of park staff, local communities and conservation partners to the conservation of biodiversity.

Ian Clark Wood, Chairman of the Wood Foundation

The Scottish billionaire businessman and philanthropist has a net worth of $1.7 billion, according to Forbes 2022 and is best known for his work in the North Sea oil industry with Wood Group.

Baby Gorilla Ubusugire – ‘Integrity’

This new addition to the Pablo mountain gorilla family was born on 9 December 2021 and was given a name by Sir Ian Clark Wood, KT, GBE, Chairman of The Wood Foundation. The name was chosen to celebrate the efforts of communities and conservationists to protect and ensure the integrity of Rwanda’s biodiverse national parks.

Frank I. Luntz, Founder and President, Luntz Global

Luntz is an American political and communications consultant, pollster. He has served as a commentator and analyst on different television news shows. He is also an author of business books dealing with communication strategies and public opinion.

Baby Gorilla Baho – ‘Live’

Founder and President of Luntz Global, Dr. Frank Luntz gave this name to a male baby gorilla from the Susa family. The name was chosen to celebrate the sustained life of mountain gorillas, and their bright future thanks to conservation efforts.

Salima Mukansanga, Rwandan International Football Referee

Mukansanga is the first Rwandan female referee to officiate at any FIFA World Cup event during the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay. Arguably the best and most famous female referee the country has ever produced, Mukansanga is one of the three women referees selected to officiate at the FIFA World Cup to be hosted in Qatar.

Baby Gorilla Kwibohora – ‘Liberation’

Born on 15 September 2021 to Ubuntu of the Igisha family of mountain gorillas, this baby was given a name by international football referee Salima Mukansanga. The name was chosen to highlight the role liberation has played in conservation as a foundation of sustainable tourism and development.