Everyone loves a baby shower right? Well, how about a shower for lots of babies to make the new babies vital new members of a critically endangered species, make them simply adorable, throw in a few celebrities and have a party on a volcano…. ? Welcome to the world of Kwita Izana! I am not saying Chichen Itza in Mexico, and you can call my colleague Sam about that in our Latin America team, I am referring to Rwanda’s Mountain Gorilla Naming ceremony, which takes place every June at the foot of the virunga mountains
There are only around 800 Mountain gorillas left, split across Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and up until the early 2000s, we were probably looking at saying goodbye to these furry friends in the not too distant future. But Mountain Gorillas are making a bit of a comeback, and with populations steadily on the increase, every year in Rwanda they celebrate the new arrivals with a naming day ceremony where the new faces from the last twelve months are officially welcomed to the world.
“If someone could fence off their own perfect garden anywhere in Africa, it would be Rwanda.”
I tried to name a chimp once that I found in Uganda’s Kyambura Gorge, my name (Ric the Chimp) didn’t take, but Bill Clinton, Don Cheadle and Natalie Portman have had more success in Rwanda over the years! They have christened new arrivals at a festival which not only celebrates the Mountain Gorillas, but also Rwandan heritage, independence and unification after the horrors of the 1994 genocide. Indeed this is very much a day when Rwanda shouts out ‘LOOK AT ME!’ with the Gorillas as an enticing carrot for the eyes of the world to latch on to.
Another question I get asked all the time is ‘can I see a gorilla family with babies!?’ for which, as Kwita Izana shows, the answer is absolutely YES!
18 births over the last year means that most groups in Rwanda have gorillas under a year old, while almost all others will have infants and juveniles. The same is true over the border in Uganda, where there are definitely plenty of cuddly babies for us all to watch exploring their new mountain world. With an hour to enjoy their company, everyone can take home memories to last a lifetime of both of the youngsters and their huge parents too! The Kwita Izana festival is held every June in Ruhengeri, Rwanda and guests are welcome to attend and join in the festivities, with the legendary after party well worth visiting too!