Since 2005, naming infant mountain gorillas has become an important annual nationwide tradition in Rwanda. The naming ceremony, called Kwita Izina, is organized by the Rwanda Development Board. It is based on a historic Rwandan cultural practice for naming newborns, and has been adapted and enhanced to celebrate successful gorilla protection and conservation.
The weeklong event in Rwanda now includes a variety of conservation-awareness activities, with government leaders, park staff, local groups, students, celebrities and communities all joining in to help choose names for the gorillas born in the past year.
The naming ceremony this year takes place on Sept. 7, at the headquarters of Volcanoes National Park, home to Rwanda’s mountain gorillas. There are 23 infant gorillas ready for naming, with seven of them from the groups that the Fossey Fund protects every day.
Here’s an inside look at this year’s Kwita Izina infants from the groups we monitor:
Infant of mother Mahane:
Born on April 2, 2018, in Musilikale’s group, this is the ninth infant for Mahane. Four of her previous offspring live in this group with her, including two silverbacks. The presence of such family in the group bolsters Mahane’s status as a dominant female, and means the newest infant has siblings to socialize with and to learn from. They can also help Mahane take care of the newborn.
Infant of mother Muganga:
Born on Oct. 11, 2017, this infant is Muganga’s third. They also live in Musilikale’s group, which Muganga joined in 2015. Her daughter also transferred to this group and also gave birth, just a few months before Muganga’s latest was born. Soon the two infants will be ready to play together, which will help them develop social skills and confidence.
Infant of mother Ikaze:
Born Oct. 26, 2017, this is Ikaze’s third infant. Although she is quite small in size, Ikaze has proven to be a very successful mother. Her previous offspring are now independent and live in a different group, since Ikaze transferred to Musilikale’s group just a year ago. Even though the infant doesn’t have siblings in this group, there are plenty of other infants available to become playmates.
Infant of mother Ubufatanye:
Born on Aug. 23, 2017, this infant is yet another addition to the fast-growing Musilikale group. Mother Ubufatanye joined the group in 2013 and had her first infant – Tabaro – after one year. Dominant silverback Musilikale is very protective and does a good job keeping his group members safe.
Infant of mother Ishema:
Born on Feb. 26, 2018, this new infant is mother Ishema’s third. All of them are males and they live in the historic Pablo group. The infant has many close family members in the group, including the two brothers, a grandmother, and aunt, and a young uncle. The large Pablo group is a great one to grow up in, and this new infant will have many family members and others to learn from.
Infant of mother Ubuhamya:
Born on July 26, 2018, this is Ubuhamya’s first infant. Ubuhamya is only 9 years old herself, but has been very attentive in taking care of her newborn. They live in the relatively new Mafunzo group, which formed in 2015 and is growing quickly, now with four infants. This infant has a grandmother and a young aunt in the group, who will help provide care and companionship.
Infant of mother Kurinda:
Born on Aug. 12, 2018, this infant was born into Ntambara’s group, which includes gorillas who have lived together for many years. Mother Kurinda will benefit from the presence of several family members, as the infant grows up. Leading silverback Twibuke is also very protective and has the help of two other silverbacks to keep the group safe as well.