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Gorilla Organization names baby gorilla
27 June 2008

It was with great pride and honour that on 21 June 2008, the Gorilla Organization was invited by the Rwandan office of tourism and national parks (ORTPN) to name one of the 20 baby Mountain gorillas named at this year’s official gorilla naming ceremony.

Emmanuel Bugingo, the Gorilla Organization’s Rwanda programme manager, joined the Rwandan Prime Minister Bernard Makuza, and First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, name the infant gorilla at the Kwita Izina ceremony. The ceremony, first introduced to the gorillas in 2005, blends highly regarded Rwandan tradition with a modern necessity to bring the message of gorilla conservation to the international community and the local people living near the gorilla habitat.

After much deliberation the Gorilla Organization chose the name Igitangaza, which means miracle in Kinyarwandan, for the precious gorilla. Igitangaza’s birth came as a great surprise to rangers who had become impatient to see Inziza, the mother, with her first born. The sight of a female with a new born baby is often a surprise to the trackers, as it is not always possible to tell that a gorilla is pregnant, but as a slightly older mother,  there had been concern that Inziza would never have a baby of her own.

Igitangaza, now known as “Igi” to friends of the Gorilla Organization, was born into the Shinda gorilla group, one of the research groups living between Karisimbi and Visoke mountains in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. The group contains around 30 individuals, including a number of adult males, and ranges close to the burial site of Dian Fossey, the great primatologist who fought and died whilst protecting the endangered Mountain gorillas.

Before Emmanuel announced the new name to the anticipating audience, he recited the story of the biblical couple Abraham and Sarah, who, like Igi’s mother, had waited patiently for their first born. This analogy received frantic applause from the audience when Igi’s new name was revealed. Bugingo went on to discuss how perceptions in Rwanda towards the gorillas had changed since he was a young boy. He recalled his childhood, when like all Rwandans, he believed that the gorillas and the volcanoes brought bad luck. 

“As a schoolchild if you said the word Ingagi (meaning gorilla) by mistake, or you looked directly at a volcano, you would be punished, unless you immediately found the nyiramudakubitwa plant, with therapeutic qualities that would protect you. If this plant was not to hand you would have had to return home immediately and hide in the bushes until the end of the day. Living in such close proximity to the volcanoes meant that this common folk law left many children missing school” said Emmanuel.

Today, however, this perception has changed. Rwandans, and especially the communities living around the gorilla habitat are extremely proud of the gorillas and are eager to learn about and protect them. As Mr Makuza , the Rwandan Prime Minister, said in his closing speech “the presence of the gorillas plays an important role in the Rwandan economy and the development of the country, and the local communities play an important role in protecting them. It pays to be friends and not enemies of this endangered species, and so it pays to conserve them and their environment”.
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
david@gorillas.org
www.gorillas.org