Kinigi — It was colour and pomp yesterday at the foot of Virunga Mountains in Kinigi-Musanze, Northern Province, as thousands of Rwandans, members of the diplomatic corps, foreign dignitaries and conservation enthusiasts from across the world, witnessed the naming of 22 baby gorillas in the annual Kwita Izina ceremony.
Prime Minister Bernard Makuza was the guest of honour at the 7th edition of the gorilla naming ceremony during which he and other selected individuals gave names to the 22 babies, including a pair of twins named Isangano and Isango.
Mr. and Mrs. Mark Van Modrick named the twins, Makuza named a baby Gorilla “Ijambo”, born to Ubuntu, a member of Susa family. Ijambo loosely translated as “a voice”, which refers to the way that Rwanda’s dignity is contributing to the country’s achievement at the international scene.
“It was selected to represent or recognise our actions, our achievements and our determination to deliver as Rwandans, which constitutes our dignity that gives us a say on the international scene,” Makuza said.
The Dutch Ambassador to Rwanda, Frans Makken, named a baby gorilla “Urahirwa” (future prospects) born to “Kwubaka” of Ntambara family.
Jack Lohman, the Director of London Museums, named a baby Gorilla ‘Inyamibwa’ while the Deputy Secretary General of Commonwealth, Ransfold Smith, named a baby gorilla “Indamutso” (greetings”.
In his keynote speech delivered on behalf of President Kagame, the Prime Minister said that since its founding seven years ago, the Kwita Izina ceremony continues to exhibit great novelty and appeal, and remains a very important event on the national calendar.
“Kwita Izina has gone beyond focus on gorillas and has become an important symbol for our efforts to conserve the country’s biodiversity, and our tourism industry has been boosted.”
“We can all be pleased with our achievements in protecting our mountain gorillas and their habitat and seeing their population grow from 308 in 2003 to 480 in 2010,” Makuza said.
The Premier added that this year’s event is significant because it acknowledges that partnerships with communities are crucial for the survival of the country’s ecosystems, including their resources and ecological service.
In line with the day’s theme” Community development for sustained conservation”, Makuza said that communities living around the parks can play an important and integral role in the conservation of the parks and management of the natural resources.
He noted that to date the tourism industry remains one of the country’s success stories because a decade and a half ago, there was no tourism sector to speak of, but today, Rwanda’s unique tourism aspects and products are known globally.
“Our tourism industry is strongly anchored on natural assets such as landscapes, parks, forests, rare animals and bird species. We must continue to protect and sustain this valuable resource base,” he said.
As a result, Makuza said, Rwanda’s tourism revenues have risen from US$ 131 million in 2006 to US$ 200 million in 2010. As the industry grows, Makuza said the challenge remains to set up world class accommodation facilities and improved customer care and services.
In his remarks, the CEO of Rwanda Development Board, John Gara, said that the event is a strong testament of the government’s commitment to ensure that tourism flourishes in a secure and enabling environment.
“This year, we seek to accrue the merits of conservation to the communities around our National Parks”.
“We seek better livelihoods for our people achieved through the growth in tourism revenues. This would not be possible without the active protection of our mountain gorillas and conservation of their habitat. We have come a very long way but we still have far to go, thus this year, it is “Community development for sustained conservation,” Gara said.
He added that every name given to a baby gorilla has a story and every birth is an important step towards achieving Rwanda’s vision to see that mountain gorillas move from being one of the world endangered species to being one of the best protected animals in natural surroundings.
This year’s Kwita Izina theme echoes that for the International Year of forests (IYF) 2011set by the international community.