On 21st June 2008, Musanze, a tiny town placed at the foothills of the Virunga Mountain Range will be host to the fourth annual Gorilla Naming ritual.
Once wildlife conservationists, most notably Dian Fossey, predicted that the Mountain Gorillas were on the verge of extinction due to the onslaught of poachers and encroachment on their habitat by land hungry farmers.
This has since been reversed and the Gorillas are once again in ascendancy as the government has made the conservationists goals of preserving the species its own. Every birth and every ‘Kwita Izina’ is a celebration of successful conservation with a long term dream to take mankind’s closest relative off the endangered species list.
Commonly referred to as the CEO of Rwanda Inc., President Paul Kagame, is one of the architects of the conservation initiative. ‘We believe that protection of the environment is fundamental for sustainable prosperity,’ he commented at last year’s ‘Kwita Izina’ ceremony. ‘We live in an era when tourism and conservation have to be pursued with equal vigor,’ he adds.
Rwanda’s national tourism agency, ORTPN, under the leadership of Mrs. Rosette Rugamba, has won numerous accolades and worked hard to transform Rwanda’s reputation from ‘the tiny war torn central African nation’ to, ‘The New African Dawn’.
Today, Rwanda is increasingly becoming a preferred tourist destination with endorsements from Bill and Melinda Gates, Natalie Portman, Steve Irwin, Andrew Young, Marjorie Kaplan and Terry Lundgren, who have all visited Rwanda’s mountain gorillas. Renowned conservationist Jack Hanna has taken his love for the place to another level by building himself a home in Musanze.
‘Kwita Izina’, Kinyarwanda for ‘to give a name’ is a term that stems from an ancient Rwandan traditional ceremony where newly born babies were given names. The term was adapted by ORTPN in an effort to raise awareness and celebrate the birth of gorillas in their natural habitat.
Every year Rwanda’s head of state, government leaders, global celebrities, the diplomatic corps, business community, international media and tourists converge along the fringes of the Parc National des Volcans to celebrate the birth of new gorillas, an achievement in environmental conservation. Given that tourism raking in a whooping US$ 42.3 million in 2007, up from the previous year’s US $36 million, there’s reason to celebrate. The mountain gorillas have been central to the exponential growth of Rwanda’s tourism sector.