The world has met in Kinigi, Musanze at the foothills of Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park to name 23 baby mountain gorillas in a global celebration of conservation and community-led efforts to protect their habitat.
Graced by Her Excellency the First Lady of Rwanda, Jeannette Kagame, the 19th Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony brought together distinguished Namers, Friends of Rwanda, special guests and tens of thousands of people from the communities surrounding Volcanoes National Park. The 23 baby gorillas were named by conservation champions, community heroes, sports stars, industry leaders and international artists and celebrities.
The ceremony featured Rwandan musicians and a performance with almost 180 artists from the Mashirika Performing Arts and Media Company that celebrated 19 years of Kwita Izina through the theme of consistency, growth, and expansion.
“Mountain gorillas represent more than a source of tourism, or adventurous entertainment. To us, our gorillas are the custodians of a nature we cherish. Rwanda’s efforts to protect its biodiversity have been multi-faceted, and multi-purposed. From local and international advocacy, to the creation and expansion of national parks, no stone is being left unturned,“ said Her Excellency, The First Lady of Rwanda, Jeannette Kagame
“When we invest in nature, we are also investing in ourselves because our environment is the foundation of our economy. This is why Rwanda invests heavily in building an eco-tourism industry that benefits both our people and our planet. I invite everyone to follow the journeys of the baby gorillas named today. Let their stories be a living testament of our commitment today,“ said Clare Akamanzi, Chief Executive Officer, Rwanda Development Board.
“Since Kwita Izina began, 374 baby mountain gorillas have been named, and the population in the Virunga Massif has grown by 23%, according to the most recent census. This remarkable achievement would not have been possible without the communities living around the park, dedicated conservationists and researchers as well as visionary leadership. That is why today is also a celebration of the transformative power of conservation in local communities.” said Michaella Rugwizangoga, Chief Tourism Officer, Rwanda Development Board.
2023 Kwita Izina Baby Gorillas and Namers
Impundu – ‘Acclamation’
This baby was born on 27 June 2023 to mother Inyenyeri of the Agashya family of mountain gorillas and was named by Queen Kalimpinya, Rally Car Driver and Gender Equality Advocate. The name was given to symbolise the hope that this baby female gorilla will grow up to be a strong and vocal advocate for the protection of her species. It also aims to encourage the next generation to actively join the policy process and own our future together.
Ramba – ‘Sustainable’
Born on 19 February 2023 to Intango of the Muhoza family of mountain gorillas, this baby was given a name by Former Paris Saint-Germain and France National Team Goalkeeper, Bernard Lama. The name was chosen to highlight the success of Rwanda’s low volume, high value approach to gorilla tourism that has enabled the country to earn from the sector sustainably.
Gakondo – ‘Tradition’
This male baby gorilla was born on 28 March 2023 and was named by Comedian and Actor, Kevin Hart. The name was chosen to highlight Rwanda’s rich cultural values and traditions that have enabled acts such as Kwita Izina to be practised for many years and are now part of the country’s development journey.
Intarumikwa – ‘Resilient Giant’
Akaramata’s son from the Mutobo family of mountain gorillas was born on 1 July 2023 and was named by Actor and Producer, Winston Duke. The name was given to recognise the strength and leadership of Mutobo, a silverback that has dominated neighbouring gorilla families and has attracted a number of females since the group’s formation.
Aguka T’Challa – ‘Expansion’
This new addition to the Mutobo mountain gorilla family was born on 8 October 2022 and was given a name by Danai Gurira, Actor, Activist and Playwright. The name was chosen to pay tribute to Aguka’s mother, Ishyaka, who has nurtured a number of babies, contributing to the rapid growth of the Mutobo family. It was also chosen to honour the late Chadwick Boseman.
Ingoboka – ‘Support’
African Wildlife Foundation Board Trustee Larry Green named a baby gorilla “Ingoboka” to symbolise it as a source of support and comfort after the Hirwa family lost some members over the past few years.
Inshingano – ‘Responsibility’
This name was given to Sugira’s daughter of the Isimbi family of mountain gorillas by United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Secretary General, Zurab Pololikashvili and chosen to to showcase the character of Rwanda’s leadership that takes responsibility and is accountable. These values have ensured the success of wildlife conservation, especially for mountain gorillas.
Uburinganire – ‘Gender Equality’
Silicon Valley Pioneer, Joe Schoendorf chose this name for Isaro’s daughter from the Musilikare family of mountain gorillas to recognise Rwanda’s efforts to build a gender equal society in which every citizen can reach their full potential.
Gisubizo – ‘Solution’
This name was chosen for a baby mountain gorilla from the Kwitonda family to highlight conservation as a solution for sustainable tourism and economic development. The baby, born on 12 December was named by novelist Jonathan Ledgard.
Mukundwa – ‘Favoured’
Rt. Hon. Andrew Mitchell MP, Minister of State for Development and Africa in the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, United Kingdom named a baby mountain gorilla from the Pablo family. He chose the name to recognise Mukundwa’s mother, Teta, who is the oldest and most dominant female in the Pablo family. She is also favoured by the family’s dominant silverback.
Ikirango – ‘Symbol’
This name was given to Umurinzi’s son of the Sabyinyo family of mountain gorillas by Director General, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Audrey Azoulay and chosen to showcase Rwanda’s success in harnessing the power of ecotourism to support conservation, with the growth of the mountain gorilla population being a highlight of this effort.
Intiganda – ‘Humble and brave’
Prof. Özlem Türeci, M.D. Chief Medical Officer and Dr. Sierk Poetting, Chief Operating Officer, BioNTech SE gave this name to a female baby mountain gorilla from the Agashya family and the name captures the essence of someone who has the courage to face challenges and pursue ambitious goals while maintaining a sense of humility and selflessness.
Mugisha – ‘Blessing’
Gutangara’s son that was born in December last year was given this name by Cyrille Bolloré, Chief Executive Officer, Bolloré. The name was chosen to recognise Mugisha’s mother who is among the female gorillas in Volcanoes National Park blessed with many offspring – all of whom are alive and doing well.
Inganzo – ‘Origin (Source)’
Shishikara’s son from the Dushishoze family was given this name by Singer, Songwriter and Recording Artist, Bukola Elemide, a.k.a. Aṣa to recognise the role of conservation and wildlife as a source of prosperity for communities. He was born on 22 September 2022.
Umucunguzi – ‘Redeemer’
This name was given to Muntu’s daughter after she lost her previous offspring. It is a wish for baby Umucunguzi to continue the family lineage. It was given to the newborn of the Musilikare group of mountain gorillas by Nick Stone, Lead Director, Wilderness. The baby gorilla was born on 14 May 2023.
Jijuka – ‘Enlightenment’
Arsenal Legend, Sol Campbell had the honour of giving this name to a newborn baby gorilla from the Segasira family to highlight the hope that Rwanda’s efforts to conserve gorillas will bring about a new era of understanding and compassion for these amazing creatures.
Nibagwire – ‘Multiply’
Elvine Ineza, a Primary Six Student at Regina Pacis School in Musanze District gave this name to a baby mountain gorilla from the Segasira family. It is a name that was given to wish the newly formed Segasira family to continue growing in number.
Narame – ‘Long life’
Chosen as a tribute to Narame’s mother, Mudakama, who lost her last two babies and as a wish for her newborn son to have a long and prosperous life, this name was given to Mudakamwa’s son from the Mutobo family of mountain gorillas born on 29 October 2022 in Volcanoes National Park. Idris Elba, OBE, Actor, Producer and Musician and Sabrina Dhowre Elba, CEO, Model and Activist and UN Goodwill Ambassador for IFAD were honoured to give the name to the baby.
Umutako – ‘Ornament’
Anders Holch Povlsen, Chief Executive Officer, Bestseller gave this name to Ingenzi’s baby gorilla from the Igisha family to celebrate Rwanda’s creative industry that produces authentic and high quality ornaments and other products that are sold around the world.
Turumwe – ‘Oneness’
Joakim Noah, Former NBA Chicago Bulls Center/Forward and Lais Ribeiro, International Model gave this name to a male baby gorilla from the Igisha family. The baby gorilla was named after Chicago’s One City Basketball League, symbolising safe spaces for youth growth that foster inter-community bonds. The name also celebrates the unity of Rwanda’s people.
Urunana – ‘Collaboration’
Chosen to highlight the importance of collaboration and partnerships to achieve global conservation goals, this name was given to Icyamamare’s son who was born on 4 September 2022. Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the Republic of Rwanda, H.E. Hazza AlQahtani had the honour of naming him at the 19th Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming ceremony.
Bigwi – ‘Achiever’
Ineza Umuhoza Grace, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, The Green Protector, gave the name to Kurinda’s daughter from the Ntambara family of mountain gorillas. The name was given to symbolise the hope that this baby female gorilla will grow up to be a strong and vocal advocate for the protection of her species. It also aims to encourage the next generation to actively join the policy process and own our future together.
Murare – ‘Sleepover’
Volcanoes National Park Ranger, Innocent Dusabeyezu gave this name to a baby gorilla that was born on 9 June 2022 to Keza, a member of the Kuryama family of mountain gorillas living in Volcanoes National Park. The name was chosen to encourage visitors to Rwanda to enjoy longer stays in the country, experiencing its diverse tourist attractions, including Volcanoes National Park, and the warm hospitality of its people.
- View and download photos from the 19th Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony on the Kwita Izina Flickr account here.
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