While naming a newly born baby gorilla has been part of Rwandan culture and tradition for centuries, the official public ceremonies are just entering their 12th year. In 2016, nineteen not so little ones are expected to receive their names, including a set of twins. The event takes place over the period of a week and is expected to attract 20,000 visitors from around the world.
Despite this increased attention, fewer than 900 mountain gorillas were counted in the wild in a census conducted in 2011. The remaining population is found across 4 National parks spreading over 3 African countries. Unfortunately, the mountain gorillas remain threatened by deforestation, poaching, the growing human population, and the social and economic crises of the region.
All is not lost, however. In addition to Volcanoes National Park, mountain gorillas, and related conservation efforts, can also be found in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the aptly named Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, as well as Virunga National Park. Responsible tourism plays a not insignificant role in contributing to the economies that support the conservation efforts of the various government and independent organizations involved.
Anyone planning to attend the naming ceremonies is strongly encouraged to book ahead as during Kwita Izina, hotels in Musanze and neighbouring areas fill up weeks in advance, and the tours and activities are more likely to be at capacity.
You can find more information on mountain gorillas and how you can support them at:
- Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International
- African Wildlife Foundation’s Mountain Gorilla Page
- World Wildlife Fund – Mountain Gorilla