*Festivities to cost Rwf 200m
Eighteen baby gorillas will get new names from best performing primary students, park rangers and renowned conservationists at the fifth annual Kwita Izina ceremony that will take place on June 20 at the foot of Virunga Mountain.
The event which has gained international acclaim since its inception will this year be held under the theme ‘Celebrating the International Year of the Gorilla’ as proclaimed by the United Nations this year.
Addressing a press conference to give updates on the festivities, Deputy CEO Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Rosette Chantal Rugamba revealed that this year’s ceremony will involve naming 18 Baby Gorillas instead of the planned 19.
“We were honoured to have two prominent guests, Ted Turner and Catherine Crier who named “Ejo Heza”, a baby gorilla born two weeks ago in Susa,” Rugamba said, explaining why only 18 will be named come June 20.
According to Rugamba, Ejo Heza which literally means ‘a Bright Future’ signifies the achievements registered in the battle to conserve Mountain Gorillas which are listed among the most endangered species in the world.
Approximately 700 Mountain Gorillas remain in the world with the biggest population living in Rwanda.
This year’s festivities will kick off on June 11 with launching of community projects in the districts of Musanze, Burera and Nyabihu.
The projects are financed by the proceeds of tourism in the region and from a two-day Kwita Izina Cycling tour that will start June 13.
Over 80 participants from clubs and individual entries will participate in the cycling tour which has four sections. Kigali-Kinigi, Kinigi-Rubavu and then Rubavu-Kinigi and finally Kinigi-Kigali.
“This year’s theme is about sports while last year’s was music,” Rugamba said.
This year’s event is expected to attract over 100 renowned regional and international guests who will also attend the Conservation conference under the theme ‘Challenges and opportunities for Gorilla conservation in the Great Lakes Massif”.
Among the guests expected are Multi-millionaire Sabine Plattner, CEO of Leadership for Conservation, 85-year old conservationists Ian Underson and David Moore, founder of Going Nowhere Slowly, a renowned South African travel TV series.
On the eve of the naming ceremony, a pre-event party ‘Igitaramo’ will be held in communities surrounding the Volcanoes National Park to celebrate the birth of the gorillas.
More than 5000 people are expected to take part in the festivities.
Proceeds from the ceremony will not only support surrounding community initiatives but will also be invested into the development of tourism in the country.
Last year, Rwanda earned more that $200m from tourism placing the sector among the leading foreign exchange earner.