All roads lead to Kinigi Friday, September 2, where conservationists, leaders and area residents will gather under the towering shadow of the Volcanoes to celebrate humans’ closest living relatives. The 18th edition of the annual Kwita Izina ceremony will see 20 baby gorillas named by, among others, royals, celebrities, philanthropists and sports icons from around the world. It’s good news for the country’s tourism sector that’s steadily rebounding from severe Covid-19 setbacks. Kwita Izina is a time-honoured Rwandan custom in which families come together to welcome, gift and name a newborn baby. It’s a customarily cherished occasion that every member of the family and invitee looked forward to with anticipation and excitement. In recent years, this tradition has increasingly become more synonymous with our cousins ‘in the mist’, thanks to the government’s commitment to conserve and protect mountain gorillas – until recently a critically endangered species. It is an innovation that has helped inspire new initiatives (such as The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund) to further build on Rwanda’s conservation effort, particularly in protection of mountain gorillas and their habitat. One of the main drivers of this success story is the fact the government has made sure that gorilla conservation and tourism directly benefit communities around the park, notably through investing as much as 10 per cent of tourism proceeds into promotion of community development initiatives, including, housing, roads, healthcare, education, entrepreneurship among others. As a result, these communities have turned into great allies in national conservation programmes, many becoming stewards of gorilla tourism. Many abandoned poaching to become conservation champions and some now serve as wardens or tour guides. Kwita Izina is also an opportunity to showcase and celebrate their invaluable contribution toward gorilla conservation. Indeed, today, Rwanda’s gorilla tourism offers a seamless luxury experience and it’ll continue to gain international traction if the stewards of this conservation revolution – human neighbours – remain at the heart of this integrated conservation effort. And, if we stay committed to this inclusive, win-win approach to conservation and understand that tourism revenue will not come on a silver platter, the majestic silverbacks will continue to proudly chest-beat and thrive with their families.