People attend the annual mountain gorillas naming ceremony Kwita Izina in Musanze district, Rwanda, Sept. 6, 2019. About 50,000 people from Rwanda and abroad were gathering in Kinigi area, Musanze district, from Friday morning to afternoon to witness the annual mountain gorillas naming ceremony Kwita Izina, which was introduced in 2005 to raise awareness about conservation and to thank communities for their persistent and invaluable participation and support for these initiatives. (Photo by Cyril Ndegeya/Xinhua)
by Lyu Tianran and James Gashumba
MUSANZA, Rwanda, Sept. 6 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of Rwandan residents wearing different types of clothes including traditional costumes, suits and casual clothes were walking along a road extending to the foot of the Virunga Massif, where endangered mountain gorillas are inhabited.
About 50,000 people from Rwanda and abroad were gathering in Kinigi area, Musanze district, from Friday morning to afternoon to witness the annual mountain gorillas naming ceremony Kwita Izina, which was introduced in 2005 to raise awareness about conservation and to thank communities for their persistent and invaluable participation and support for these initiatives.
Kwita Izina, originating from a Rwandan tradition in which families hold a ceremony to name a newborn gorilla, has become the central African country's most important event on its conservation calendar, and 281 baby mountain gorillas had been named since the first official naming ceremony began, according to government department Rwanda Development Board.
The top of a Virunga volcano was appearing and vanishing intermittently due to mist on this drizzling day. Starting from a baby gorilla from the Isimbi family, 25 baby gorillas were named during the 15th Kwita Izina by senior officials, celebrities, conservationists, tourism practitioners, among others.
Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn gave the name "Umukuru", meaning leader in English, to a baby gorilla in tribute to one of Rwanda's oldest elephants "Mutware," which died in 2018 at the age of 48.
The Rwandan people are teaching others how to live harmoniously with animals, said Desalegn when announcing the name.
United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed named one baby gorilla "Ingoga," meaning courage in English.
The international community needs to show courage in the face of environmental challenges, she said.
Former football manager Louis Van Gaal, English supermodel Naomi Campbell, English football legend Tony Adams, Jordan's Princess Basma Bint Talal, American singer Ne-Yo were among the namers.
"As we give names to 25 baby gorillas today, we celebrate our conservation successes and thank the community, partners and friends from around the world for their invaluable support to protect these remarkable animals," Chief Tourism Officer of Rwanda Development Board Belise Kariza said at the event.
The population of the mountain gorillas increased from 480 in 2010 to 604 in 2016 in the Virunga Massif due to conservation efforts, said Kariza.
She attributed the conservation success to the role of governments of Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda, local communities and conservation partners working hand in hand to protect the species and its habitat.
The success stories heard could not have happened without cooperation, understanding and support of the local communities, said Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who named twin baby gorillas during the first official naming ceremony in 2005.
Calling for further community support for conservation, Kagame said the government's revenue sharing program has been very helpful in advancing the conservation cause and development.
Since 2005, the Rwandan government adopted a policy whereby 10 percent of all park revenues is given back to the communities living adjacent to parks through funding of community-based projects. In 2018, the revenue-sharing program supported investments worth 1.7 million U.S. dollars that were allocated towards 37 projects, figures of the Rwanda Development Board showed.
There are over 1,000 mountain gorillas living in the world, more than half of which live in the Virunga Mountains, and the remainder can be found in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Since the discovery of the mountain gorilla in 1902, the species has endured years of war, hunting, habitat destruction and disease, and was once thought as probably extinct by the end of the 20th century due to severe environmental threats, the WWF said.