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Mountain gorillas named in traditional Rwandan ceremony
02 July 2007

On 30 June 2007, the Gorilla Organization joined Natalie Portman and the Rwandan President for the third annual gorilla naming ceremony in Rwanda, to name 23 Mountain gorillas from the Volcanoes National Park. The theme of this year’s ‘Kwita Izina’ ceremony was “caring for wildlife concerns us all’, and celebrated the work of the Gorilla Organization and others who contribute to wildlife welfare and conservation in Rwanda. Hosted by the Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN) in the Musanze district in Kinigi, this high profile event is steeped in Rwandan tradition and was attended by over 100 key international personalities.
Among those naming the gorillas in this year’s ceremony was actress Natalie Portman. She named one of the infant gorillas from the ‘Group 13’ family with the name Gukina, which means ‘play’ in the local Rwandan language. A gorilla was also named in honour of Steve Irwin by a friend of the Irwin family. The gorilla was named Ingufu Steve Irwin, which means ‘strength and energy of Steve Irwin’.
Rangers have been naming baby gorillas in ceremonies for the last two decades, but it is only since 2005 that the ORTPN launched the official gorilla naming ceremony as an international event. Aimed at ensuring the future of the Mountain gorillas, the ceremony was re-branded earlier this year as ‘Kwita Izina’, which means ‘to give a name’ in the Kinyarwandan language. It is a cherished Rwandan tradition used to name every new-born baby, and the entire Rwandan community found it pertinent to extend the ‘Kwita Izina’ ceremony to the precious Mountain gorilla population. Gorillas are identified by their unique nose prints, and the names they receive play a key role in monitoring individuals and gorilla groups in their mountain habitat.

Rosette Rugamba, the ORTPN’s director general said, “if you look back at the twenty or so years that Dian Fossey spent on gorilla conservation, she succeeded in raising awareness about the plight of the gorilla but, people hardly knew the role of the Rwandese. Part of what we are doing at this ceremony is to celebrate that success and highlight the contribution of the indigenous people who have also played a huge role in conservation”.
The Gorilla Organization works closely with the local communities and the ORTPN, supplying Rwandese rangers with essential equipment such as tents, boots and water bottles. Emmanual Bugingo, the Gorilla Organization’s Rwanda programme manager, who attended the gorilla naming ceremony said “ the Kwita Izina ceremony brings together everyone who shares our commitment to the conservation of Mountain gorillas, it is a celebration of all the great work that has been done and that will continue to be done for years to come. The naming ceremony is also a way for us to tell the world about Rwanda’s magnificent Mountain gorillas and the Volcanoes National Park”.
The 23 gorillas named during the 2007 Kwita Izina ceremony are from nine families living in the Volcanoes National Park. Rwanda is home to about one third of the 720 Mountain gorillas remaining in the world, and has been at the forefront of the gorilla conservation effort.  The Mountain gorillas’ long-term existence is threatened by illegal poaching and habitat encroachment, but due to renewed efforts of the national conservation authorities, the local populations and the international NGO community the Mountain gorilla population has continued to survive.

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for further information or photographs contact:

David Hewitt, Communications Manager
The Gorilla Organization, 110 Gloucester Avenue, London, Nw1 8HX
Tel: 020 7916 4974
Mobile: 07801 971123