There’s nothing cuter than an infant gorilla – and nothing more important to the future of this endangered species. That helps explain why this is one of our favorite times of the year in Rwanda, where we protect mountain gorillas every day: It’s almost time for the annual gorilla baby-naming ceremony!
This year on Sept. 2, the Rwandan government will hold the 18th Kwita Izina ceremony, in which gorilla infants born in the past year are given meaningful names, chosen by a variety of dignitaries, celebrities, trackers, conservationists and other partners. In 2017, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s own president and CEO – Dr. Tara Stoinski – had the privilege of naming an infant, in honor of our 50th anniversary.
Kwita Izina was created based on a traditional Rwandan ceremony for naming human infants, and is now a nationwide celebration of nature and conservation, highlighting the successes of protecting the mountain gorillas as well as the many challenges they still face.
After two years of virtual celebrations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year the ceremony will return to Kinigi, near Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park where the mountain gorillas live. In addition to the ceremony, the Rwanda Development Board, which operates the park, has organized a “Business of Conservation Conference,” a community project launch, a concert and other events.
Ubufatanye and her infant with silverback Icumbi
Coming soon: The infant gorilla names
Twenty infants will be named at this year’s ceremony, including eight in groups that are monitored by the Fossey Fund. While we will wait to share all of the infants on Sept. 2, here is a sneak peek of one of the infants ready and waiting for an official name. This infant was born on Dec. 9, 2021, to first-time mom Gwira.
Gwira and her infant live in the famous Pablo group of mountain gorillas, which is the longest-studied group ever observed, first seen by Dian Fossey as part of what she called Group 5. Pablo’s group, which evolved from Group 5, also became the largest ever recorded, hitting a record 65 individuals in 2006. It was led at that time by silverback Cantsbee, who holds the record for the longest reign of dominance. So this new infant has been born into a great group with an amazing history. We are sure that the name chosen for her will reflect that!