Rwanda recently held its 15th annual gorilla-naming ceremony, Kwita Izina, in Kinigi, Volcanoes National Park, where 25 baby gorillas were named by conservation champions from all over the world.

Organised by the Rwanda Development Board, the ceremony of giving a name to a newborn baby has been part of Rwandan culture for centuries. It is named after the ancestral baby naming ceremony that happened after the birth of a newborn.

The ceremony’s main goal is in helping monitor each individual gorilla and their groups in their natural habitat. The event saw the presentation of the names chosen for 25 gorillas born in the past year.

This year, the 15th edition of Kwita Izina, attracted baby namers such as English supermodel Naomi Campbell, American RnB singer Ne-Yo, soccer legend Tony Adams, and renowned choreographer Sherie Silver, just to mention but a few.

The baby gorillas named were members of the Amahoro, Umubano, Hirwa, Igisha, Isimbi, Muhoza, Kwitonda, Sabyinyo, Susa, Pablo, Kuryama, Mafunzo, Kureba, Musirikali, and Ntambara groups.

In conjunction with the week’s events for Kwita Izina, the Rwanda Development Board recently held the fifth edition of the Business of Conservation Conference at the Kigali Convention Centre on 7th – 8th September, 2019. The two-day forum brought together conservation and tourism experts from around the world to discuss, debate and find solutions for conservation challenges.

The Business of Conservation Conference is a Rwandan event introduced in 2005 with the aim of creating awareness of conservation efforts for the endangered mountain gorilla, focused on the theme ‘Conservation is Life’.

The Rwanda Development Board Chief Tourism Officer, Belise Kariza, said the Kwita Izina Business of Conservation Conference is “an important forum bringing together you, the conservation and tourism experts from around the World, to discuss, debate and find solutions to the challenges we all face in conservation today – in Rwanda, in Africa and Globally.”

Business of Conservation Conference provides the opportunity to renew profession working friendships and networks, as well as establish new ones. The Conference is an important call to action in support of conservation and sustainable tourism in Rwanda and the new baby mountain gorillas that were named is yet another indicator that proves Rwanda determination to protect biodiversity assets.

Tourism is one of the key pillars of Rwanda’s economy, accounting for an estimated AUD638.8 million in 2017, according to the Rwanda Development Board (RDB). These tourism dollars came from 1.7 million international visitors in 2018, an increase of eight percent on 2017 figures.

As a result of conservation efforts such as Kwita Izina, the population of the endangered mountain gorilla increased again in 2018. The 2018 census estimates the number of mountain gorillas at 1004 in total (Virunga and Bwindi combined). In Virunga the gorilla population has risen to 604, living in 41 social groups. The Virunga Massif is comprised Mikeno Sector of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda. Mountain gorilla numbers in the entire area had fallen as low as 242 in 1981.

The 2019 Kwita Izina Gorilla Baby Namers 

Jeremy Jauncey, founder & CEO of Beautiful Destinations, an award-winning nation branding agency named a baby gorilla from the Isimbi family as well, ‘Ingando’ which represents ‘opportunity for the future and hope for a better world’.

Madeleine Nyiratuza, Programme Specialist, Sustainable Growth Unit at UNDP Rwanda, named a baby gorilla from the Amahoro family, ‘Isanzure’ noting that the name means that gorillas should be allowed to roam freely.

Amb. Ron Adam, the Ambassador of the State of Israel in Rwanda named a baby gorilla from the Sabyinyo family, ‘Igihango’ which means ‘convenant’ and said it represents the unbreakable bond between the gorillas and their guardians.

Tony Alexander Adams MBE, an English football legend named a baby gorilla from the Mafunzo family, ‘Sura’urwanda’ which translates to ‘Visit Rwanda’, symbolizing the partnership Rwanda has with English football club, Arsenal.

Niklas Adalberth, Swedish entrepreneur and founder of Norrsken named a baby gorilla from the Isimbi family, ‘Irembo’ which means ‘gateway’.

Ngabo Médard Jobert, better known as Meddy, a Rwandan RnB and pop artist named a baby gorilla from the Musirikare family, ‘Inkoramutima’.

Otara Gunewardene, a Sri Lankan businessperson and philanthropist, named a baby gorilla from the Pablo family, ‘Kira’ which means ‘bless you’ in Kinyarwanda and named after her two sons, Kiran and Rakhil.

Louis Van Gaal, Dutch former football manager and player named a baby gorilla from the Hirwa family, ‘Indongozi’ which means ‘leader’.

His Excellency Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe: Former Prime Minister of Ethiopia named a baby from the Pablo Family ‘Umukuru’ as a tribute to Mutware, the oldest elephant in Akagera National Park that died last year.

Ronan Donovan, National Geographic photographer and filmmaker named a baby gorilla from the Kwitonda family and the name was chosen after National Geographic opened the naming process to their social media followers. The name that was chosen was ‘Intego’ which means ‘purpose’.

HRH Princess Basma Bint Ali, an advocate of biodiversity conservation and sustainable agriculture in Jordan named a baby gorilla from the Mafunzo family, ‘Uhiriwe’ which means ‘lucky one’.

Emmanuel Niringiyimana, a young Rwandan who built a road on his own to facilitate the movement of people and goods in his village in Karongi District named a baby gorilla from the Igisha family, ‘Mugwire’.

Paul Milton, the founder of Milton Group who developed the Singita Kwitonda Lodge on behalf of investors Mr Paul Tudor Jones and Mr Anders Povlsen & Luke Bailes, the Founder and Executive Chairman of Singita, named a baby from the Pablo family, ‘Inararibonye’ which means ‘wise and experienced’ in Kinyarwanda.

Dame Louise Martin, DBE, President of the Commonwealth Games Federation and Patricia Scotland, named a baby gorilla from the Igisha family, ‘Uruti’ which means ‘the highest recognition of heroism’ and ‘Nazarian’ which means ‘the one who loves and initiates peace among the communities’.

Naomi Campbell, English supermodel, actress, and businesswoman named a baby gorilla from the Muhoza family, ‘Intarutwa’ which translates to ‘excellent’ in Kinyarwanda.

Award-winning Rwandan Professional cyclist, Joseph Areruya named a baby gorilla from the Amahoro family, ‘Inganji’ meaning long life.

Marco Lambertini, Director General of World Wildlife Fund for Nature named a baby gorilla from the Kwitonda family, ‘Ikirenga’ which means ‘Exceptional’.

Sherrie Silver, Actress and choreographer, named a baby gorilla from the Susa family, ‘Ibirori’ which means ‘celebration’.

Anthony Nzuki: Ranger Post Leader at Akagera National Park, Rwanda named a baby gorilla from the Kureba family, ‘Karame’.

Kenyan entrepreneur and philanthropist, Dr. Kiboro Wilfred, named one of the new baby gorillas from the Sabyinyo family, ‘Ituze’ which translates to stability in Kinyarwanda and ‘take care of it’ in Swahili.

Jean Nepomuscene Musekura, one of the incredible park rangers from Volcanoes National Park chose the name ‘Bisoke’ for one of the new baby gorillas from the Ntambara family.

H.E Amb. Karén Chalyan, Ambassodor of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Rwanda named a baby gorilla from the Ntambara family, ‘Umwihariko’ which means ‘exception’.

Robert Twibaze, one of the senior tour guides with over 12 years of experience chose the name ‘Inzobere’ for a baby gorilla from the Agashya family.

Amina Mohammed: Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations. She was formerly the Federal Minister of the Environment of Nigeria. She named a baby from the Umubano family, ‘Ingoga’ which means courage in Kinyarwanda.

Shaffer Chimere Smith, better known by his stage name Ne-Yo named a baby gorilla from the Kuryama family, ‘Biracyaza’ which means greater things are coming for Rwanda.

For more photos from Kwita Izina 2019, click HERE.

For more on Rwanda visit


About Kate Webster

Kate Webster is an editor and travel journalist – writer and photographer – who travels the globe in search of vivid imagery and compelling stories that capture the essence of the places she visits. Born out of a life-long love of travel and fascination with the world around her, is Kate’s inspiration behind her writing and photography.
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