IMPANO: First Ever Surviving Twin’s Third Baby to be Named!

Blog | 22/09/21

When the twin gorilla babies- Impano and Ibyishimo were born in 2004 to adult female Nyabitondore of Susa group, park staff thought the infants wouldn’t survive but the infants were yet to prove them wrong! Seventeen years later the twin gorillas are alive, strong and well and now have infants of their own! Thanks to the group’s joint effort to raise the infants, to Mother Nature and to the park’s extreme conservation efforts that ensured the safety and survival of the twin gorillas. Impano and Ibyishimo are the first set of surviving mountain gorilla twins in Volcanoes National Park, followed by the Blackbacks Gato and Gakuru born to adult female Ruvumu from Hirwa group.

According to Elizabeth Nyirakaragire, a Veterinary Officer at the Volcanoes National Park, the park conducted a lot of research on how to successfully take care of twin gorilla infants with little success. “Over five sets of twins were born in the 2000s unfortunately all of them died. The Park researched a lot and did all it could to ensure their survival but nothing worked. We knew for sure that these twins Impano and Ibyishimo wouldn’t make it either, if not all, then at least one would die,” says Elizabeth Nyirakaragire, Veterinary Officer at Volcanoes National Park.

According to Elizabeth Nyirakaragire twin babies require a lot of care and attention. If the group is not supportive to the mother, they can be lost. Luckily for Nyabitondere, Susa group adopted a way to keep their precious twins safe!  Individuals took turns to attend to the babies and relieve the mother from time to time. According to the trackers, the Blackbacks often carried one of the babies when ranging around and would return it to feed and then take it back with them.  Slowly the twin infants grew and have lived to make history. Ibyishimo is now a magnificent Silverback while Impano is a proud mother of three; Blackback Turere, Juvenile male Tunganirwa and a male baby who will be named at this Year’s the 17th virtual Kwita Izina ceremony.

On this year’s World Gorilla Day, Rwanda will name 24 baby gorillas, born in the last 12 months. The Gorilla Naming Ceremony #Kwita Izina will be celebrated under the theme “‘Conservation and Sustainable Tourism – A Foundation for Future Generations.” Dignitaries including, conservationists, development partners, international celebrities, and friends of Rwanda will name the 24 gorilla infants. The given names become the gorillas’ identity and help in their daily monitoring and tracking by the rangers.

 “Naming Impano’s other infant is exciting. Impano and Ibyshimo’s survival and growth is evidence that if closely monitored and protected, mountain gorilla twins can survive and thrive,” says Damascene Hakizimana, Acting Monitoring and Research Warden at Volcanoes National Park. “Their lives are a success story of a job well done by both the group members and the rangers. We celebrate the twins, and Impano’s newest addition,” Damascene adds.  

Sixteen years ago, the infant twins Impano and Ibyishimo were named at a colorful Kwita Izina Ceremony by the President of Rwanda, His Excellency Paul Kagame and the First Lady Jeannette Kagame.  The excitement about their survival echoes in their names; Ibyishimo translates to happiness while Impano means gift.

Commenting on the twins’ naming, Elisabeth says they were hesitant to include them on the list of babies to be named that year because they were not sure if the infants would live long but to their surprise, they did. “When the twins made it to the naming ceremony, they indeed had to be named and blessed by the highest authority in the country to show how important their survival meant to conservation,” says Elizabeth.

Formerly born in Susa group, Impano today belongs to Igisha group – a split away group from the original Susa group and one of the adopted gorilla groups by World Wildlife Fund –UK (WWF-UK). Formed in 1974, Susa group was recorded to be the second largest ever observed mountain gorilla group with 41 members but the group faced major splits that caused the formation of Isimbi, Karisimbi and Igisha groups.

In addition to Impano’s baby, two more babies born to Ijambo and Ururabo adult females will be named from Igisha group.

More Gorillas Babies to be Named from our adoptive groups!

World Wildlife Fund-UK adopted the original SUSA group from the Volcanoes National Park but unfortunately the group later split to form four groups. Mountain gorilla adoption helps to protect vital gorilla habitat, support regular surveys of mountain gorilla populations and support work with local governments to improve the management of the national parks where mountain gorillas live. Here below we share with you details about the adult females whose infants will be named on 23rd Sept.

Africa – Isimbi Group

Originally from Pablo group, Africa was born to adult female Maggie in April 2000. The 21 year old female is beautifully distinguished by golden hair/fur on her cheeks – not commonly seen with other gorillas. This golden hair  makes it easy for  the trackers to identify any time of day.. Africa acts like the second in command in the group since the group has only one Silverback (so she kind of fills this gap) and is often seen in company of the dominant Silverback – Muturengere. Africa is a mother of two –  sub adult female Ubukungu (wealth) and a male infant yet to be named.

Ejoheza – Isimbi Group

Born to adult female Poppy in May 2009 , Ejoheza stands out because of her extremely curious and playful nature. She is often seen 20metres away from her group mates, eating and playing at the same time. Ejoheza has a daughter named Isuku ( Hygiene) and a male infant yet to be named.

Ururabo -Igisha Group

Born to adult Female Poppy in March 1997, Ururabo is a very aggressive female. She is always helping Igisha the dominant silverback to keep the group intact and subservient. Ururabo has four children including; Silverback Imena, Sub adult male Nkurunziza, Juvenile Uburumbuke and the yet to be named infant male.

Ijambo -Igisha Group

Ijambo was born in March 2011 to adult female Ubuntu. Ijambo is known for her  playful nature. Ijambo is a first time mother whose infant will be named at this year’s 17th Kwita Izina Ceremony.

The International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) currently consists of Conservation International, Fauna & Flora International and the World Wide Fund for Nature. We recognise that the earth's survival is dependent on humanity's ability to maintain a healthy and balanced environment that includes all species of wildlife.