Known as the “land of a thousand hills”, green is a word that best describes Rwanda. Not only green in colour, with the rich rolling hills that are ever present on the horizon, but green on sustainability and conservation.
With good reason too. Rwanda is home to the rare mountain gorillas and are found only in small portions of protected afro Montane forests in northwest Rwanda, southwest Uganda and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
At last census there was just 1000 remaining mountain gorillas. The best place to witness these mountain gorillas is during a visit Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Consisting of 125 km2 of mountain forest and the six Virunga Volcanoes, the lush forested slopes of the mountains form an appropriately dramatic natural setting for what is arguably the most poignant and memorable wildlife experience in the world: gorilla trekking.
Travellers seeking the memorable gorilla encounter come from far and wide to go trekking in Rwanda, however if you travel at the right time of the year, you can also witness a unique Rwandan tradition called Kwita Izina – the baby gorilla naming ceremony.
The tradition of giving a name to a newborn baby has been part of Rwandan culture for centuries and is known as Kwita Izina. This tradition has been passed on to the gorilla families.
The ceremony’s main goal is in helping monitor each individual gorilla and their groups in their natural habitat. This year saw the presentation of the names chosen for 21 gorillas born in the past year. The theme of this year’s Kwita Izina was “Conservation is Life,” and the activities in the lead up to the naming ceremony included community projects, educational programs, the “Conversation on Conservation” workshop and an exhibition.
Baby gorilla names were chosen by a variety of participants at the ceremony, including Rwandan and international officials, local and international conservationists, business leaders, sports personalities, musicians and others.
As a result of conservation efforts such as Kwita Izina, the population of the endangered mountain gorilla is increasing. By trekking with these mountain gorillas also creates awareness and understanding. To protect anything, you have to care about it, and to care, you have to know that it's there.