Kwita Izina names gorilla babies and celebrates communities
Twenty-two gorilla babies, including a pair of twins, received their name on Saturday during the annual Kwita Izina ceremony in Kinigi.
This seventh gorilla-naming ceremony was held under the theme “Community development for sustained conservation,” and was attended by thousands of people, mainly from nearby communities. The baby-gorillas foster parents consisted of various government officials, diplomats, company representatives, conservationists and community advocates.
Prime Minister Bernard Makuza named the first gorilla Ijambo (“word”), explaining that words like action, achievement, determination and dignity symbolize Rwanda’s efforts in protecting the gorillas.
Other names chosen were Urahirwa (prospects and future), Indamutso (greetings), Umujyanama (advisor) and Sakaara (known). The twins (only the sixth pair to be born in the last 40 years) were christened Isangano (meeting-place) and Isango (appointment).
“One of the biggest success stories has been the tourism,” the Prime Minister said. “A decade and a half ago, there was no serious tourism sector to speak of. Now we have a globally and economically unique tourism product. Our next challenge will be to build upon our successes with further development and world-class service.”
Makuza challenged the private sector to improve standards in conservation and tourism and encouraged more research, marketing, promotion, product development and service, adding that full government commitment and support would be behind these initiatives.
Makuza also noted that the future development of Rwanda will depend on the balance between development and environmental conservation.
Since the first Kwita Izina was held in 2005, 123 gorillas have been given a name. It has since become an international event to create awareness about the protection of the remaining wild mountain gorillas as well as the conservation of Volcanoes National Park (VNP). In addition, it aims to recognize the conservation efforts by local communities, as this year’s theme made clear.
Aime Bosenibamwe, the governor of the Northern Province, highlighted the importance of the gorillas for the region. “It is a resource which we take very seriously,” he said. He also lauded the cooperatives from the area that work in conjunction with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) to improve the lives of citizens. “This park has been here for over 100 years, but all previous governments have neglected it. The current one, on the other hand, is giving the resources back to the community,” Bosenibamwe explained.
An estimated 800 people form local communities are involved in day-to-day management at VNP. 180 people are employed as guides, trackers and anti-poaching teams. Community members were also involved in the design, construction and operation of a cultural village in the area. The village now generates around US$ 14,000 per year, with which projects chosen by the communities are financed.
RDB’s tourism revenue sharing schemes generated Frw 460 million in 2008, which helped constructing 11 schools and 3 health-centers, as well as other amenities such as water tanks. Last week, for instance, 52 small household-based water collection tanks and 4 large public ones were inaugurated.
With the local communities being sensitized to the benefits of gorilla tourism, the gorillas are more protected than ever before. A census conducted in April 2010 showed a 26.3% increase of the mountain gorillas over the past seven years, with an average 3.7% annual growth rate.
The CEO of the RDB, John Gara, said these statistics are very encouraging given that it was predicted in the 60s that the gorillas would be extinct by the year 2000. He credits the steady increase in the gorilla population to the efforts of the RDB, local administrators and of course, the communities.
(compiled from RNA)