Rwanda named 24 endangered mountain baby gorillas of Friday who were born late last year and this year, in an annual gorilla conservation event known locally as “Kwita Izina.”
For the second year running, the ceremony was held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic, unlike previous years when it convened thousands of participants at the foot of the Volcano National Park, a habitat for gorillas in northern Rwanda.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame said in a pre-recorded message that the pandemic has affected the way “Kwita Izina” is celebrated, but testing and vaccination have been expanded to ensure healthy lives for both citizens and visitors.
“There has been a drop in the number of visitors to Rwanda because of the pandemic but the important work of conservation has continued. As visitors return they will have remarkable experiences that match their high expectations,” he said.
“The government of Rwanda will continue to invest in the hospitality sector to both drive economic growth and preserve our unique natural attractions for generations to come.”
Since the inception of the annual event in 2005, 328 baby gorillas have been named, according to the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
"The success of gorilla conservation in Rwanda shows the good that can be achieved, through active community participation and the right partnerships,” said Ariella Kageruka, acting chief tourism officer at RDB.
Rwanda recorded a slump in tourism revenues last year, amounting to $121 million, a sharp drop from the $498 million generated in 2019 before the virus.
Tourism activities were suspended for months owing to COVID-19 restrictions in Rwanda, before reopening the tourism sector in June 2020.
The ceremony highlighted Rwanda's conservation efforts, including the health of the mountain gorillas, the need to expand the primate’s habitat as well as how livelihoods of park communities have been improved amid wildlife conservation.
The naming team included officials, artists, professionals, sports personalities and conservation enthusiasts from across the world.
Antony Lynam, a representative from the International Congress on Conservation Biology, named a baby gorilla from the Hirwa family, “Mugwire,” meaning: “Reproduce.”
Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, chief executive and chairperson of Global Environment Facility named one from the Kuryama family, “Injishi” which means “Sacred tie.”