Kwita Izina 2018: Who are the Gorilla namers?

The annual Gorilla naming ceremony, popularly known as Kwita Izina, the biggest event on the country’s tourism calendar, is slated for this weekend on September 7.

The event, which is organised by Rwanda Development Board (RDB), will be held in Kinigi Sector, Musanze District.


23 baby gorillas will be named for this year’s event.


Namers include Rwandan and international conservationists, sports personalities, renown philanthropists and diplomats. 


The list revealed by RDB, include former First Lady of South Africa and Mozambique, Graca Machel, American-Senegalese singer, songwriter and businessman, Akon and former Arsenal and  Cameroonian football star, Laureano Bisan Etamé-Mayer, among others.

Kwita Izina, a uniquely Rwandan event was introduced in 2005 with the aim of creating awareness of conservation efforts for the endangered mountain gorilla.

This year, the gorilla naming will be held under the theme; ‘Conservation is Life’.

The event has been credited for raising awareness of the endangered species, whose population in the Virunga Massif, their habitat, had risen to 604 by 2016, up from 480 in 2010.

The Virunga Massif comprises the Mikeno Sector of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.

Mountain gorilla numbers in the entire area had fallen as low as 242 in 1981, according to RDB figures.

The 2018 gorilla namers are:

1.His Highness Sheikh Dr. Abdulaziz Ali Bin Rashid Al Nuami: Known as the ‘Green Sheikh’, he has dedicated his life to traveling and environmental stewardship.

2. Dr. Noeline Raondry Rakotoarisa: She is the Program Chief of Capacity Building and Partnerships Section- UNESCO/MAB (Man and Biosphere).

3. Madame Graca Machel: She is the former First Lady of South Africa and Mozambique. Graca Machel is an international advocate for women's and children's rights.

4. Aliaume Damala Badara Akon Thiam: He is an American singer, songwriter, businessman, record producer and actor of Senegalese descent.

5. Samba Bathily: A Malian philanthropist, Samba is CEO of Solektra International and co-founder of Akon Lighting Africa with international Akon and Thione Niang.

6. Alexandra Virina Scott: Alexandra Virina Scott, is a retired English footballer who mostly played as a right-back for Arsenal Women. She made 140 appearances for the English national team and also represented Great Britain at the 2012 London Olympics.

7. Laureano Bisan Etamé-Mayer: Laureano Bisan Etamé-Mayer, commonly known as Lauren, is a retired Cameroonian footballer, who played as a right back for the Cameroonian national team and Arsenal FC. He was a member of 49-game unbeaten Invincibles team.

8. Strive Masiyiwa: Strive Masiyiwa is a Zimbabwean businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is the founder and executive chairman of diversified international telecommunications, media and technology group Econet Wireless and Econet Media.

9. Adrian Gardiner: South African Adrian Gardiner is the founder and chairman of Mantis, a family-run collection of privately-owned hotels, eco escapes and lifestyle resorts located around the world, with a large presence in Africa.

10. Michael O’Brien-Onyeka: Michael is the Senior Vice President of Conservation International for Africa, a non-governmental conservation and sustainable development organization.

11. Thomas Krulis: He is the Coordinator - Young Presidents' Organization (YPO) coordinator and CEO, Loto Investments.

12. Hong Liang & Xinyu Zhang:  The celebrity couple are hosts of the popular online travel programme called ‘Lu Xing’ (On the Road).

13. Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall: Hugh is the Vice President, Flora & Fauna International- UK.  He is an English celebrity chef, television personality, journalist, food writer and campaigner on food and environmental issues.

14. Peter Riedel: Peter is the President and COO of Rhode Schwarz International, an international electronics group specialized in the fields of electronic test equipment, broadcast & media as well as cybersecurity.

15. Alexa Gray: Alexa is representing the Gordon and Patricia Gray Animal Welfare Foundation.  The Gordon and Patricia Gray Animal Welfare Foundation is a supporter and donor for the VNP Expansion Program through the Africa Wildlife Foundation.

16. Michael Wale: Michael is the Group CEO of Kerzner International, a company that develops and manages luxury resorts, residences and integrated entertainment resorts.

17. Ambassador Peter H. Vrooman: Peter is the US ambassador to Rwanda.

18. Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo: He is the former president of Nigeria

19. Theo Kgosinkwe & Nhlanhla Nciza: The duo, known as Mafikizolo, are three-time winners of the South African Music Award for Group or Duo of the Year.

20. Rao Hongwei: He is the ambassador of the Peoples Republic of China

21. Odette Nyiramongi: She is the proprietor of Paradis Malahide Resort, an eco-friendly hotel in Rubavu.

22. Judith Kakuze: A former porter at the Volcanoes National Park, Judith is now on the Advisory Committee of the Volcanoes National Park Porter Association. In addition, she is a member of the Advisory Council of Kinigi Sector.

23. Jeannette Uwiragiye:In 2017, Jeannette graduated as the best female student in the Department of Forestry Conservation, IPRC- Kitabi. 

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