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Baby gorillas named during ceremony in Rwanda

Kwita Izina is a key event in the Rwandan calendar, and for conservationists globally. It is during this annual ceremony that newborn mountain gorillas are given names in a public declaration of the country’s enduring support for conservation and tourism.

Inspired by the Rwandan tradition of holding a naming ceremony for babies after their birth, Kwita Izina – or ‘to give a name’ in the national language, Kinyarwanda – was introduced in 2005 to not only create greater awareness of the importance of conservation, but to thank Rwandans for their on-going and invaluable support of these initiatives.

This year marks the 17th anniversary of the Kwita Izina event, when 24 baby gorillas will be given a name. Dr Max Graham, the founder and CEO of international conservation organisation Space for Giants, was invited to name one of the gorillas in the Kwita Izina ceremony.

Space for Giants is the partner charity of The Independent’s Stop The Illegal Wildlife campaign. The Kwita Izina ceremony will be hosted by guest of honour H.E. President Kagame, who is also a member of the Giants Club.

Dr Max Graham told The Independent “The baby gorilla I will be naming is from the Kwitonda family and the name I am giving him is Igicumbi.

“This strong name means Habitat [in Kinyarwanda] and it highlights the uniqueness of the Virunga massif, which remains the last refuge mountain gorillas call their habitat, as well as being the first African national park created in 1925 to protect the magnificent species. In order to protect the uniqueness and the history the three countries [Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda] signed a collaboration treaty and established a secretariat (GVTC) to promote the transboundary collaboration.”

Igicumbi, the latest baby to be born to the Kwitonda family, will live with his wider family in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda.

Volcanoes National Park is the only area in Rwanda that can offer Mountain Gorilla Trekking. There are a total of 10 habituated mountain gorilla groups in this park, each of varying sizes. The Kwitonda family has between 23-28 members, four of these being silverbacks - making it the second largest gorilla family in Volcanoes National Park.

The Kwitonda gorilla family name was adopted from the dominant but gentle silverback in this group who had crossed from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Rwanda in 2003. Since that silverback’s death in 2012 at the age of 40, another called Akarevuro has taken over leadership of the group.

The Greater Virunga Landscape (GVL) straddles Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda and is home to both terrestrial and aquatic resources, offering some of the richest biodiversity across the African continent. A huge 95% of the total GVL area are listed as World Heritage Sites, comprising Virunga, Bwindi and Rwenzori National Parks.

The GVL is home to over 5,164 species of mammals, as well as being home to the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population.

To learn more about Kwita Izina and find out more about the baby gorillas that were named visit

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