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5TF: Kwita Izina

Question 1

What is Kwita Izina?

Kwita Izina is a naming ceremony for mountain gorilla infants born in the past year and is based on a traditional Rwandan naming ceremony for humans. The ceremony and related special conservation activities are organized by the Rwandan government, which operates the national parks where mountain gorillas live.

After the ceremony, which will be held in Kinigi, near Volcanoes National Park, there will be a two-day conference on the business of conservation a well as an educational exhibition, both held in the capital city of Kigali. A community project funded largely by revenue from gorilla tourism will also be launched.

Question 2

How long has Kwita Izina been celebrated?

The Kwita Izina mountain gorilla ceremony started in 2005, making this upcoming Kwita Izina the 15th anniversary ceremony. However, the tradition of naming a newborn human baby, after which Kwita Izina is named, has been a part of Rwandan culture for centuries.

In addition to the gorilla-naming ceremony, the event now includes all kinds of special conservation activities, exhibits and presentations. This year’s naming ceremony is on Sept. 6 but the other activities take place throughout the week.

Before the Kwita Izina gorilla-naming ceremony was introduced in 2005, the naming of infant gorillas was carried out by rangers and researchers who worked with them every day, including the Fossey Fund’s trackers and scientists. Before that, Dian Fossey and her researchers had adopted the practice of naming the gorillas, so that they could accurately observe and study them.

Question 3

How many infants are being named this year?

Twenty-five gorillas are scheduled to be named at this year’s Kwita Izina. Ten of them are from groups that the Fossey Fund protects, and the others are from groups monitored by the Rwanda Development Board. A few infants have been born since this year’s gorilla-naming ceremony was planned, but they’ll probably have to wait to get their names in 2020! 

Question 4

How are the gorillas named?

All the names have meaning in the Kinyarwandan language. For example, infant “Umuryango” got her name, which means “family,” because this youngster lives in a large and historic group of gorillas we’ve been monitoring for over 25 years.

Our favorite is “Macibiri” who got her name in 2017, when the Fossey Fund was celebrating our 50th anniversary. Dr. Tara Stoinski, our CEO, got to officially choose the name and it’s a special one – a shortened version of the nickname that Dian Fossey had during her time in Rwanda. 

Question 5

Where you find more information about the ceremony?

Rwanda has an official website for Kwita Izina ( https://www.rdb.rw/kwitizina/).

Here you can learn more about the infant gorillas, the history of the ceremony, and this year’s activities. We’ll also post all the infant names on our website and social once they’re available.