The East African country has on Saturday named 24 baby gorillas in a national ceremony that took place at the foot of Volcano National Park in Kinigi, Musanze district. The number of mountains gorillas had significantly declined in the last century as a result of poaching, diseases and human encroachment.
In a bid to promote the endangered species conservation efforts, the Rwandan government came up with an annual baby gorilla naming ceremony dubbed "Kwita Izina". The latter is a centuries old tradition to celebrate the birth of a child in the Rwandan society. It has in recent years been branded as one geared at raising awareness about threats targeting mountains gorillas in addition to promoting tourism industry..
Before the introduction of the annual ceremony, park rangers used to casually name baby gorillas. Beginning 2005 they have been receiving names from dignitaries in Rwanda and around the world such as President Paul Kagame, Bill Clinton among others. A decade of conservation efforts have produced tangibles results that have been praised by the international community as one of the world`s greatest conservation success stories.
Kwita Izina has played a significant role to increase mountain gorillas at a 4% annual rate. Their population is currently estimated at 900 by Gorillas Doctors, an organization that provide medical care to the apes. Mountains gorillas live in an area covering the Volcano National Park in Rwanda and neighboring parks in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The chief of tourism at Rwanda Development Board (RDB) ambassador Yamina Karitanyi said that ever since the ceremony was launched in 2005 an increasing number of baby gorillas were named. "This year 24 will be named, last year we named 18 and a year before we named 17", noted ambassador Karitanyi. .
The annual ceremony has boosted tourism industry revenues. Last year the hospitality industry earned the country up to US$ 300 million according to RDB. Tourism is actually the country`s top foreign exchange earner while a decade ago export revenues depended essentially on products like tea and coffee.
President Paul Kagame was a guest of honor at the 11th Kwita Izina edition that had attracted thousands of local residents, diplomats and visitors from all corner of the globe. In his remark he thanked local residents who have joined their hands with the government to conserve mountain gorillas.
He reminded them that the ceremony was a unique opportunity to value the national asset in tourism sector and which belong to them as citizens. The head of state appreciated the fact that 5% of revenues that mountain gorillas permits generate are invested in communities surrounding the park. .
The government says that in the last decade more than US$ 1.83 million of revenues were used to build 57 primary schools in 13 districts and funded 360 community projects. They include health centers, roads, bridges, water and sanitation and even beekeeping.
This program has opened new opportunities to former poachers that are now involved in income generating activities thanks to shared revenue scheme. Recall that foreign visitors pay US$ 750 to track the national park and visit gorillas while locals pay US$ 50.
Kwita Izina has raised the importance of mountain gorillas conservation to the point that children living near the park identify gorillas by their name and have come to value them as an asset that promote their social and economic well being.