Baby gorillas honored in ancient Rwandan naming ceremony

World Today

A baby gorilla from the 2014 Kwita Izina naming ceremony. Photo by Ndimubanzi Inf

Thousands of people gathered for a very special ceremony to name 24 baby gorillas. The baby-naming tradition of Kwita Izina was traditionally used for christening newborn humans but in 2005, the Rwandan government developed the practice to raise awareness about conservation, inviting people to name the newest born baby gorillas.

Kwita Izina Twitter page

Kwita Izina Twitter page

Gorilla naming ceremony brings conservation awareness

A special event held annually in Rwanda gives the tradition for naming newborns a modern twist.

The event, held on Sept. 5 usually attracts about 20,000 people according to a special section on The Rwanda Development Board’s website dedicated to Kwita Izina. Rwanda’s economy relies heavily on tourism; there’s now a growing awareness of striking the delicate balance to protect the fragile ecosystems in the area while welcoming visitors. Rwanda is part of the Virunga Massif, a region in central Africa with biodiversity like nowhere else in the world.


A massif is a term used in geology that refers to a section of the planet’s crust known for faults and ridges.

"Gahinga Muhabura" A volcano within Virunga Massif. Photo by Amakuru.

“Gahinga Muhabura” A volcano within Virunga Massif. Photo by Amakuru

The Virunga Massif spans parts of Rwanda, Uganda, and The DRC – see map inset, The Virunga Massif is highlighted approximately in purple.

The Virunga Mountain range highlighted approximately in purple. Photo by the USDA.

The Virunga Mountain range highlighted approximately in purple. Photo by the USDA.

Source: Volcanoes National Park Rwanda

A trek through Volcanoes National Park to see gorillas proves worthwhile

Maria Galang makes the three hour trek to view Mountain Gorillas in their natural habitat and along the way speaks with those who know the area best.

There are two main types of gorillas in the world: The Eastern Gorilla and the Western Gorilla. Their numbers range from endangered to critically endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), where gorillas are cataloged along with other animals on the Red List as one of the world’s most vulnerable species. The biggest threat to their existence is habitat loss, though they can also die from diseases (including a human’s common cold) as well as poaching and the bushmeat trade, according to the World Wildlife Fund.


Gorillas share 98.3 percent of their DNA with humans.

A DNA double helix contains all the genetic info to make you, YOU. And well, a gorilla, a gorilla.

A DNA double helix contains all the genetic info to make you, YOU. And well, a gorilla, a gorilla.


Photo by Zoostar


* Like people, gorillas typically only give birth to one child at a time, therefore raising only one baby within a 4-6 year period.

* Mothers usually only have three or four children in their entire lifetime. Gorillas take significant time to reach sexual maturity, and the species is also more susceptible to endangerment because they’re not prolific breeders.

* The Ebola virus wiped out 90 percent of western lowland gorillas in Congo and Gabon in the early 2000s.

* In forests where poaching has drastically reduced gorilla populations, several large fruit trees – which depend on gorillas for seed dispersal and germination – have also become very rare.

* Gorillas form stable family groups with a male as the leader.

* The groups can vary in size from 2-50 members but generally have about 5-10 individuals.

* Gorillas are mainly herbivorous (vegetarian) and spend much of the day feeding on stems, bamboo shoots, fruit, a bit of bark and even invertebrates like larvae.

Source: The World Wildlife Fund