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New Names for Youngest Gorillas Chosen in Ceremony

July 1, 2008

New Names for Youngest Gorillas Chosen in Ceremony

Each year in Rwanda, government officials, conservationists including Karisoke Research Center staff, and a variety of special guests and celebrities gather to celebrate and name all the mountain gorillas born that year in Volcanoes National Park. This year, on June 17, in the “Kwita Izina,” or the Gorilla Baby Naming Ceremony (adapted from a traditional ceremony for human infants), 20 gorilla infants received names, including 10 that were born into the gorilla groups that Karisoke monitors, protects and studies. The theme of this year’s ceremony, organized by Rwanda’s Office of Tourism and National Parks, was “working together to conserve our wildlife.”

Every year the ceremony attracts more participants. This year, the celebrations were expanded from one day to a full week of activities relating to conservation. Local communities held concerts, bicycle races, and community days. Several schools, water tanks and a “Welcome to Rwanda” campaign were launched. An international Gorilla Conservation Conference took place in Kigali, chaired by DFGFI’s Vice President Dr. Alecia Lilly.

Rwandan government minister and DFGFI’s Rwandan representative Dr. Romain Murenzi opened the conference by stressing the importance of “drawing attention to the wealth of biodiversity in Rwanda and developing strategies for conservation in Rwanda.” The many presentations included one by Karisoke Interim Director Glenn Bush on the demand for mountain gorilla tourism.

Names given to gorilla infants in groups monitored and protected by Karisoke staff included:

* “Agakiza,” meaning “salvation,” because he was born to Mahane in Pablo’s group a few days after a tracker was saved from drowning.

* “Mushya,” or “new,” born to Icyizere, because the infant was the first born in a new group led by Isabukuru.

* “Igisubizo,” or “response,” because the mother, Bishushwe, had lost a previous infant to infanticide after transferring to Shinda’s group.

* “Igitangaza,” or “miracle,” because the mother Inziza, in Shinda’s group, was older than the usual age when female gorillas give birth.

* “Haguruka,” or “vision,” born to Mahirwe in Kuryama’s group.

* “Rwema,” or “super,” born to Umusatsi in Kuryama’s group, was larger than other infants in the family.

* “Rugira,” born to Muganga in Kuryama’s group, named “creator” to glorify God for making gorillas.

* Jyamubandi,” or “join others,” since Ukuri’s infant followed soon after three other births in Kuryama’s family.

* Ntaribi,” or “no problem,” because he didn’t use his fingers for a while after his birth to Ntobo in Bwenge’s group but was later found to be normal.

* “Zirikana,” born to Ginseng in Bwenge’s group, named “look after” to signify that everyone on the field staff must look after the gorillas and remember that the gorillas’ survival depends on his dedication to the work.