Kwita Izina – baby gorilla naming ceremony in Rwanda


“Kwita Izina” is a Kinyarwanda (Rwandese local language) word that means “to give a name”- it refers to the act of naming a thing or a person.  Kwita Izina as a term, refers to an old tradition in the Rwandan culture where a community came together to give a name to a new baby born in the community. This way the baby grew up being cared for, nurtured and protected by the whole community.

The “Kwita Izina” tradition was borrowed for naming of mountain gorillas of Rwanda whereby the newly born baby gorillas are given names. Gorillas share 98% DNA with humans; we share a number of attributes including having unique faces from one individual to another. The purpose of naming the gorillas is to enable easy identification of each individual gorilla, to monitor its growth and the family or group where it belongs. Similar to the human social structure, Gorillas live in families headed by an adult male gorilla which protects and directs the movements of the group; and so each of the families in the park is also given a name. Therefore naming of the individual gorillas and their families helps with monitoring the gorillas and subsequently protecting them.

Previously it was just the park rangers and researchers in Volcanoes National Park that named the gorillas, but this has been expanded to involve the local and international community. Each year on the 6th of September international visitors and locals convene in Kinigi village situated in the foothills of the Virunga Mountains to give names to the baby gorillas born in the last one year.

kwita izina rwanda

Kwita Izina is being used as a great conservation tool to create awareness among the local people to know about the benefits of having gorillas near them and thus the importance of conserving the park and protecting the gorillas. It is important to note that 10% of the money the Rwandan government collects from the gorilla trekking tours in the Volcanoes National Park is channeled into developing the local communities around the park. Also, the gorilla tourism has employed a lot of local people who; work as park guides and tour guides, work at hotels, sell food to the hotels, etc.  Therefore, when you visit Rwanda for a gorilla tour, you are contributing to the development of the people and conservation of the mountain gorillas of Rwanda.

The local communities are the immediate neighbors of the gorillas and are key to conserving the gorillas. And because they are involved in the Kwita Izina, a tradition they understand very well, they have become important partners in this conversation effort.

Different prominent people such as international and local celebrities are invited to name the baby gorillas – selecting from a pool of suggested local names or suggesting one’s own name which is translated into local dialect. This has given a lot of clout and publicity to the Kwita Izina ceremony. It can now be argued that it is one of the greatest honors in conservation, to be invited to name a baby gorilla in Rwanda.

baby gorillas name on Kwita Izina

Now, with each gorilla being given a name, they become a part of the wider global community and therefore it becomes a responsibility of everyone to protect the habitat of the gorillas and see that these great apes thrive!

Want to attend the Kwita Izina ceremony in Rwanda?

Would you like to attend this conservation special event? You can register with the Rwanda Development Board through this link:

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