Earlier this month, 14 mountain gorillas were named during the 6th annual gorilla naming ceremony, Kwita Izina. With the entire mountain gorilla population critically low at approximately 680 individuals, each birth is cause for celebration.
Thousands of people made their way the foot of Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda to celebrate this year’s Kwita Izina under the theme “Many Species, One Planet, One Future.” Special guests included Rwandan President Paul Kagame, The Under Secretary and Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Achim Steiner, and Hollywood film star Don Cheadle.
The naming ceremony coincided with World Environment Day, established by UNEP in 1972 and celebrated each year on June 5th. “We have dedicated almost 10 percent of our territory to the conservation of our biodiversity and we continue to sensitize our people so that they understand that, indeed, we have one future as far as this planet is concerned,” said Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who presided over the festival and related events. “We believe that protecting the environment entails, among other things, empowering communities so that they change their attitudes and find alternative livelihoods that can promote sustainable and equitable development.”
The ceremony takes its name from the Rwandan tradition of giving a name to a newborn baby. Since the first Kwita Izina in 2005, 103 baby gorillas have been given names. Thousands of people from around the world helped American actor Don Cheadle select the name “Zoya” for one gorilla, which refers to “life” and “light” in several languages.
The gorilla naming ceremony has helped bring mountain gorilla conservation to the international spotlight while raising funds for local conservation efforts. The United Nations says this year’s World Environment Day raised $85,000 for gorilla conservation.
Photos by TNgoga