The gorilla naming ceremony (Kwita Izina) at the Volcano National Park-Kinigi in Musanze has turned into a worldwide conservation event, and it is not an exaggeration, owing to accompanying events and a host of people who grace the function.
Last year, movie star, Natalie Portman attended the event. This year, a series of colourful events that accompanied the ceremony meant it was no ordinary ceremony.
There was a conservation conference, and a charity music concert was performed by West African music star Oliver Ngoma and a gorilla monument was unveiled in Kigali city centre.
Ordinarily no naming ceremony, traditional or modern baptism in church can attract the attention of similar magnitude.
It started like a normal day. Thousands of people from Rwanda, and beyond gathered at the edge of the Park for the ceremony. And the message was clear ‘working together to conserve our wild life.’
Schools around closed temporarily to allow students attend the ceremony. You would think area residents have gotten used to such ceremonies, but whenever the time approaches it attracts renewed enthusiasm.
The annual event recognises the importance of endangered creatures like the mountain gorillas to the tourism sector and reminds everybody to avoid encroaching on the forest.
Fortunately, with the increased efforts by the Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Parks (ORTPN), to foster cooperation among park communities, threat to the life of gorillas has been checked and their populations have gradually increased.
The local inhabitants have come to embrace conservation and look to it to improve their economic status. Straying animals that used to destroy crops of residents, attracting their wrath, have since been tamed by blocking their exit routes.
Chantal Rosete Rugamba, the Director General of ORTPN, said that the activities which preceded the Kwita Izina were intended to create awareness and a sense of involvement in the development of tourism and conservation in Rwanda.
The names and their significance
As is the tradition, many people were invited to offer names. But the names have significance in a way: According to Park wardens the names help them track gorillas that fall to poachers.
Wardens have previously reported recovering stolen gorillas and it’s not a surprise. Trackers say they go calling out their names the way a person calls out another, because they are used to them.
Gusura, this was the name chosen by Oliver Ngoma, which means to visit, in essence the name could be interpreted to mean that the primates can p ull every body who minds, to Rwanda.
The Commerce minister, Monique Nsanzabaganwa chose the name Garuka Kaneza meaning come back, you’ve seen baby gorillas please come again.
Félicité Mukamana, a student of Bisate Primary School chose the name Ubworeherane, which means tolerance, people ought to live in tolerance with the gorillas and fellow humans.
Umuhuza, was the name chosen by a representative from D R Congo, it means mediator, gorillas link us all as neighbours, it was explained.
Rwema, was the name chosen by a representative from Burundi, it means a high level reached. While a baby gorilla whose mother had poor health before birth was named Igitangaza, a miracle, by Emmanuel Bugingo of the GO-Gorilla Organisation.
The gorilla naming ceremony will always act as platform to create awareness at both national and international level and keep the momentum and enthusiasm by everybody to protect the few remaining primates in the world.
To the local residents, it served to make them feel the ownership of the primates and the forest. They should therefore fight for the security of the gorillas due to the accruing benefits.