This September 24, we mark not just World Gorilla Day, but Kwita Izina, Rwanda’s annual gorilla naming ceremony. Kwita Izina, an initiative of the Rwandan government, is an exciting time for Fossey Fund staff and our devoted followers, because we get to celebrate all of the newest baby mountain gorillas born to the gorilla families of Volcanoes National Park.
At this year’s celebration, 24 baby gorillas will be named — including several baby gorillas born into families that are protected and monitored by the Fossey Fund.
Who names these babies? Each year the Rwanda Development Board selects honored guests to choose the names. During last year’s naming ceremony, which was help virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the 24 baby gorillas were named by trackers, rangers and other frontline conservationists, with a few named by members of England’s Arsenal football club. This year’s honorees have not yet been announced.
Below you’ll find information about the infants born into the groups we monitor.
Born into Musilikale’s group on July 30, 2020, Mudasumbwa is already more than a year old, but he was born too late to be included in the group of babies that were named in 2020. Because he’s older than the other infants, we already know quite a bit about him. He is an active gorilla and we often find him playing with 2-year-old Duhuze. His older brother Urungano also plays with and babysits him. Though he still depends upon his mother’s milk to meet his nutritional needs, he has already started trying solid foods. Mom Rugira carries him from place to place on her back, but sometimes she wants to play with the other adults, and he has to hang on tight so he doesn’t fall off!
Mudasumbwa was named by footballer Sergio Ramos of Paris Saint-Germain F.C. The name reflects the fact that mountain gorillas are a dominant and respected species in the wild.
Meaning: “Long life”
Kabeho’s mom, 35-year-old Nzeli, joined Kureba’s group in March 2020, and gave birth on November 13, 2020, so Kabeho’s paternity is uncertain. We believe the father is Urugwiro, the silverback of her previous group. Nzeli is a confident and experienced mother who allows her infant to explore on its own. Kabeho enjoys the company of infant Mubyeyi, who was born into the group just one month after him.
Kabeho was named by Rwandan singer and songwriter Bruce Itahiwacu, also known as Bruce Melodie. The chosen name bestows wishes for a long and healthy life for mountain gorillas and shows the important role each individual plays in the ongoing success of gorilla conservation.
Female Mubyeyi was born on December 23, 2020 — just one month after Kubeho. Growing up together in Kureba’s group, they are already becoming fast friends and playmates. Dominant silverback Ishavu is a vigilant father. Mom Kubana is also quite protective — this is not surprising given the fact that she lost her three previous infants, and we are happy to see that she is doing well as a mom this time.
Mubyeyi was named by Dr. Senait Fisseha, director of global programs at the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation. Her name was chosen to honor the efforts of mothers in raising their offspring.
The youngest member of Ntambara’s group, Twirinde was born on December 24, 2020 — a Christmas gift for the entire family! Mom Tegereza already has two male offspring in the group, and both help her care for the newborn, whose gender is still unknown. Tegereza has a close relationship with dominant silverback Twibuke, as the two gorillas have known each other their entire lives. Tegereza never left her natal group and is well respected by all group members. There are three infants in the group so there are lots of opportunities for playtime. Twirinde has already started moving a few steps away from its mother, but never too far.
Twirinde was named by Professor Beth Kaplin, director of the Center of Excellence in Biodiversity and Natural Resource Management at the University of Rwanda. The name symbolizes the commitment of park staff to ensuring the safety and hygiene of mountain gorillas by protecting themselves, their families and the community around them.
Born on February 6, 2021, Mpanuro is Ikaze’s fourth infant. Two of Ikaze’s offspring live in Isabukuru’s group, while 4-year-old Kwaguka Kwiyongera lives with Ikaze and this new sibling in Musilikale’s group. There are four infants and five juveniles in the group, so there will be plenty of playmates available in a few months when Mpanuro, a female, is old enough to join in the fun.
Mpanuro was named by youth volunteer Jeanne d’Arc Uwamahoro and community health worker Alphonsine Niwemugeni. Her name was given to recognize the work of Rwanda’s youth volunteers and community health workers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Born on February 9, 2021, Kura was the first infant born to 10-year-old Umujyanama of Pablo’s group. Umujyanama is a protective and sweet mother who spends lots of time grooming and caring for her baby, whose gender is not yet known. Umujyanama’s mother is no longer in the group, so instead of learning from her own mom, Umujyanama gains practical experience by watching other family members, including her cousin, Teta, who has a 2-year-old of her own.
Kura was named by Arsenal first team player Bukayo Saka, who chose the name to bestow wishes of health and strength upon baby Kura.
We’ve been waiting a long time for Kurudi to give birth again, as her last offspring, Macibiri, was born almost five years ago, and there are typically just four years between babies for a gorilla mom. Nshunguye was born into Titus’ group on April 18, 2021 — the only infant in the group other than big sister Macibiri, who was named at Kwita Izina in 2017 by our very own CEO, Tara Stoinski. This is the first time Macibiri has had someone younger to help care for, and she enjoys spending time with mom and baby. Right now Nshunguye depends solely on her mother for nutrition and transport, but in a few months she will be ready to play and explore with big sister.
Nshunguye was named by Dr. Deborah Dunham, chairperson of the Gorilla Doctors, who chose the name to celebrate the addition of another female gorilla to the growing family.
Meaning: “Sacred tie”
Kuryama’s group has been ranging far from our monitoring teams, and so we were unable to observe them for several months. When we spotted the group on June 4, 2021, we saw that 31-year-old female Makuba had a baby with her — Injishi. Because she was holding it ventrally (across her belly), we estimated that Injishi was about 3 months old at that time. Mom Makuba is a descendant of Puck and Effie — we love to see descendants of historic gorillas thriving.
Injishi was named by Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, CEO and chairperson of Global Environment Facility. The name symbolizes the immeasurable value of Rwanda’s mountain gorillas.