Target: Rwanda Development Board — Tourism and Conservation
Goal: Celebrate strategy to save mountain gorillas that involves a ceremony where newborn gorillas are named
Mountain gorillas have been nearing extinction for years, with less than 1,000 remaining in the wild. All of these gorillas reside in the Virunga Massif, a chain of volcanic mountains shared by Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda. As nearly two-thirds of these gorillas remain in Rwanda, the country has taken an interest in protecting these magnificent creatures, in particular a ceremony known as ‘Kwita Izina.’
Kwita Izina is an elaborate ceremony where all of the gorillas born in a given year are named. It is based off of the Rwandan tradition of baby naming. 2013 marked the ninth Kwita Izina ceremony, with approximately 161 mountain gorillas having received names to date. This year, international guests including actor Isaiah Washington, Director of the Earth Institute Jeffrey David Sachs, and Secretary General of the UN World Tourism Organization, Dr. Taleb Rifai, were given the honor of being among those to announce the names of the gorillas. The ceremony itself also includes traditional Rwandan dancing and draws 6,500 Mwunze attendees, along with nearly 500 international guests.
This unique ceremony has been successful in more ways than one. First, money brought in through tourism helps the local communities, which encourages them to protect the gorillas. As such, Rwanda has seen a 26.3 percent increase in mountain gorillas since 2003, which is considered an incredible feat as it makes Rwanda the only country not seeing a decline in gorilla population. Rwanda, in general, has also seen an increase in tourism, much of which revolves around the protection of the gorillas, and is helping to revive the country.
Kwita Izina is a unique ceremony that is offering wonderful benefits to both a near-extinct species and a great African country. The increase in tourism brings money into the country, much of which is returned to local communities, and encourages those in Rwanda to protect rather than poach the gorillas. It is a method that perhaps other countries should consider to protect other endangered species.
Congratulate Rwanda on this unique idea and help celebrate the remaining gorillas today.
Dear Rwanda Development Board — Tourism and Conservation,
Congratulations on the success of the ninth annual Kwita Izina ceremony. It is wonderful to see a country making such a big effort to protect animals on the verge of extinction — I certainly hope that other countries begin to follow your lead.
The fact that the ceremony is not only helping the mountain gorillas but also the communities most dramatically effected by the extinction prevention is wonderful as well. It involves the community in the protection of a species that may not otherwise care about and allows their personal lives to improve as well.
I hope to see Kwita Izina continue for years to come and the number of wild gorillas continue to increase significantly. Please keep up the great work!
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Duplisea via Flickr