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Kwita Izina

“Kwita Izina” is a Kinyarwanda word (Rwandese local language) that means “to give a name”. It refers to the act of naming a thing or a person.  Kwita Izina refers to an old tradition in the Rwandan culture. Where a community comes together to give a name to a newly born baby in the community. This way the baby grew up being cared for, nurtured and also protected by the whole community. In Rwanda, raising the child was a community thing. And not only left to the biological parents as we sometimes see today.

The “Kwita Izina” tradition borrowed for naming of mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Whereby the newly born baby gorillas are given names. These mountain Gorillas share 98.8% DNA with human beings, therefore, we share a number of attributes including; unique faces from one individual to another. The purpose of naming these gorillas is; to ensure easy identification of each individual gorilla and to also monitor its growth and the group or family where it belongs.

Similar to the human social structure, Gorillas live in families headed by an Adult male gorilla. Which protects and directs the movements of the group; therefore, each of the families in the park is also given a name. Naming of the individual gorillas and their families helps with monitoring the gorillas and subsequently protecting them.

Previously, it was just the park rangers and researchers in Volcanoes National Park that named these Gorillas. But this expanded to also involve the local and international communities. Each year on the 6th of September, international visitors and the locals convene in Kinigi village located in the foothills of the Virunga Mountains to give names to the baby gorillas that were born in the last one year.

The festival beams with joy, music, dance and celebration showcasing the beauty of Nature as well as the resilience of communities.

The goal of this naming ceremony was to create awareness of the Mountain gorilla Conservation activities. Over 20,000 guests attend the Kwita Izina ceremony including celebrities and prominent personalities. The ceremony highly promoted globally within wildlife conservation circles and prominent conservationists  invited.

Kwita Izina has contributed to an increase in the overall number of these endangered mountain gorillas. From only about 300 individual gorillas in 1985 to over 1000 individuals across the three countries of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The publicity, knowledge and awareness spread during the Kwita Izina ceremony attracts many important people as well as donors.


Reasons for Naming these Infant Gorillas

The naming of infant gorillas is important for the easy identification of these primates in a particular family. Gorillas have a similar DNA to us humans, about 98.8% and that includes their facial structures. Their faces look similar to each other and naming each new born individual helps distinguish one from the other.

Naming each individual gorilla as well as their family groups helps the Park Rangers, Guides and researchers to easily monitor their health, growth, new births and deaths.

Naming gorillas helps the Park Authorities to protect them from any possible dangers by knowing incase one is missing.

When an individual gorilla or group has a name, it is easier for Individual donors and sponsors to offer support to them.