News Kwitizina: Where History and tradition meet to celebrate conservation

Kwita Izina is a traditional ceremony organised by Rwandans to celebrate and welcome a newborn in a family. This ceremony consists of offering an opportunity to family members and neighbors to give a name to the new family member. They all meet in the family and each one gives a name of his/her choice. A child can have even more 1,000 names for a large family of 1,000 members. But, the child will be known under the names only given by the parents.

Concerned URL http://www.notrebio.org/kwita-izina-where-history-and-tradition-meet-celebrate-conservation
Source Partners For Conservation
Release date 23/12/2015
Contributor Emmanuel BUGINGO
Geographical coverage Rwanda
Keywords Milestone achivement,

Kwita Izina is a traditional ceremony organised by Rwandans to celebrate and welcome a newborn in a family. This ceremony consists of offering an opportunity to family members and neighbors to give a name to the new family member. They all meet in the family and each one gives a name of his/her choice. A child can have even more 1,000 names for a large family of 1,000 members. But, the child will be known under the names only given by the parents.

It is within this context that this ceremony was introduced to welcome newborn gorillas as well. Practically, it started when the American primatologist late Dr Dian Fossey, started giving names to gorillas she was monitoring for her research early 1970’s. Some of us can easily recall he famous DIGIT. Late on, the ceremony was adopted by the Office Rwandais du Tourism et des Parcs Nationaux (ORTPN), the then institution in charge of park management in Rwanda which; developed this as an internal ceremony to this institution and its partners.

The names attributed to the gorillas play a great part in the program of monitoring of each individual and gorilla groups in its habitat.

As a part of personal experience, I remember the atmosphere of 2002 gorilla naming ceremony, when attended this ceremony for the first time ever. There was a cloud of people from park staff and partners to local communities and tourists who joined the ceremony after trekking gorillas.

As a means of raising awareness at the national and international level about the protection and conservation of the endangered mountain gorillas and their habitat, in 2005 ORTPN decided to transform what was a particularity to the VNP into a national and international event by launched the annual gorilla naming ceremony.
To make it much attractive, ORTPN gave a name to the ceremony itself and what was gorilla naming became KwitaIzina in reflection of the traditional ceremony of Rwandans. On top of that, innovations were brought in such as the KwitaIzina week, and annual theme. This boosted the local and international knowledge on gorilla plight. I remember how people from local and international organizations gave their commitments to support and promote conservation and the socio-living conditions of people surrounding the gorilla habitat. In my quality as the Rwanda Programme Manager of The Gorilla Organization, I was thrilled to give too a three years pledge and I’m happily proud to have realized it.

Kwita Izina is an event to never miss and giving a name to a baby gorilla is a lifetime experience. In 2008, I could not believe my eyes when informed that I was offered an opportunity to be one of 20 selected parents to give names to 20 baby gorillas that day. This was an honor to my contribution in conservation. The baby I had to name was from SHINDA group, from a mother called INZIZA. With much affection, I gave IGITANGAZA as a name. Meaning "miracle" in local language, the name was chosen in accordance to the mother's personal life. In fact, according to rangers, it was becoming a big concern to this female that was taking longer to give her 1st born and suddenly a certain morning she was seen with a beautiful baby, which I had to name! this where the tradition and history meet make this event more exciting. I felt naming this baby was as sweet as when I named my firstborn, ten years back.

2015 marks the 11th edition of KwitaIzina. The theme for this year is “ Conserving now and for the future” and will be held on September 5th. 24 baby mountain gorillas born within the last year will be given names during. With the 11th edition of Kwita Izina197 gorilla babies will have been named in the annual gorilla-naming celebration.

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