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Introducing Kwita Izina – Rwanda’s unique gorilla-naming ceremony

Every September, Rwandans gather to celebrate their mountain gorillas and name the latest members of the species

A baby gorilla in Rwanda. Name unknown (Shutterstock)

September 24 is International Gorilla Day. It is also the day that Rwanda celebrates Kwita Izina, the country’s annual gorilla naming ceremony.

The ceremony was first held in 2005. It is based on a centuries-old tradition where Rwandans name their children in the presence of family and friends.

Kwita Izina has been a huge global success. Visitors come from all over the world to take part in the week-long celebration. And Rwandans feel that the gorillas are ‘part of the family’.

The stage used for the naming ceremony (Shutterstock)

The stage used for the naming ceremony (Shutterstock)

The ceremony is usually held on a huge silverback-shaped stage in Volcanoes National Park. Special guests are assigned a baby gorilla and given a list of proposed names. A name is then chosen according to the baby’s behaviour and character traits.

This year 24 baby gorillas will be named, using names chosen by trackers, rangers and other frontline conservationists. Because of continuing COVID restriction, the ceremony will be held virtually.

Over the last 16 years, 328 mountain gorillas have been named.

Even in the time of COVID, Kwita Izina continues to play a crucial role in the conservation of the environment, encouraging Rwandans to preserve their natural and cultural heritage.

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