Sri Lankan entrepreneur, Otara Gunewardene was invited by the Rwandan Government as an honorary guest to name a baby mountain gorilla at the annual Kwita Izina naming ceremony.
The ‘Kwita Izina’ gorilla baby naming ceremony, held on the first Friday of September every year, is based on a traditional Rwandan naming ceremony held for newborn babies and has been a part of the Rwandan culture for centuries, a statement said.
The infant gorillas are named by conservation, business, sports, fashion and show biz icons from around the world.
It was introduced in 2005 to raise awareness of conservation efforts, as the Government of Rwanda, through the Rwanda Development Board has achieved great success in protecting the endangered mountain gorilla population and has worked diligently with conservation partners, the private sector and the community to conserve their natural habitat.
Before the introduction of the ceremony, infant gorillas were named by park rangers, researchers and scientists, following the footsteps of late American primatologist and conservationist, Dr. Dian Fossey, who named all the gorillas she was studying back in the 70’s in order to accurately observe and learn about them.
This year, thousands of Rwandans and conservation champions gathered at Kinigi, Musanze, on the foothills of Volcanoes National Park to celebrate the 15th Kwita Izina baby gorilla naming ceremony, aimed at raising awareness on Rwanda’s conservation efforts.
It was attended by 1000 VIPs from around the world, 4000 invitees and 30000 members of the community in Rwanda. All the honorary gorilla baby namers were also given the opportunity to trek through the mountains and visit the gorilla family they will be naming in their natural habitat, the statement said.
The event spans a week and includes special activities related to conservation, educational exhibits and community projects held in the capital city of Kigali.
“It is an honour to be recognised by the Rwanda Development Board and to be given this opportunity,” Ms Gunewardene said. “Having visited Rwanda with my family last year to address local entrepreneurs at the First Lady’s Imbuto Foundation, I was impressed by the successful conservation efforts undertaken by the country to save not only the Mountain Gorillas but their entire eco system as well.”
“These magnificent animals share 99 percent of our DNA but were expected to be extinct by the millennium due to detrimental human activity. The incredible efforts by the Rwandan government led by President Kagame for whom conservation is a priority is something to be admired. As a passionate wildlife enthusiast and conservationist, I am so pleased to be a part of the Rwandan government’s efforts to protect the mountain Gorilla population.”
This year, the 25 baby gorillas that were named are members of the Amahoro, Umubano, Hirwa, Igisha, Isimbi, Muhoza, Kwitonda, Sabyinyo, Susa, Pablo, Kuryama, Mafunzo, Kureba, Musirikali and Ntambara groups.
Otara had the pleasure of naming the newest member of the Pablo family, Kira, derived from the names of her two sons, Kiran and Rakhil, which also means “bless you” in Kinyarwanda, the Rwandan language.
As a result of Kwita Izina and other conservation efforts, the population of the endangered mountain gorillas had increased to 281 in 2016 in comparison to 480 in 2010 and the region’s low of 242 in 1981.
The 2019 Kwita Izina Gorilla Baby Namers
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