At Home with Rwanda’s Baby Gorillas
Nairobi, 20 June 2011 – Last year, the eyes of the world were on Rwanda as it hosted World Environment Day (WED). To mark the occasion, WED 2010 participants were given the chance to name three baby gorillas as part of the traditional Kwita Izina naming ceremony.
One year on, UNEP has revisited the three gorillas in their remote mountain habitat for a new, three-part film. The youngsters – named Zoya, Waka Waka and Legacy – are shown playing, exploring and interacting with their families among the bamboo trees of the Volcanoes National Park.
Just two weeks after the filming, a set of twins was born to Zoya’s family. Though twins are extremely unusual, this is the second set born to this family and the third set born in the park in the last three years.
In Rwandan culture, giving names to human babies, in a ceremonial style, is a long standing tradition. And the people of Rwanda also bestow this tradition on the country’s mountain gorillas, a testament to their beloved status. On the practical side, names also ease the identification of individuals in habituated groups, which helps with research, medical care and interest from gorilla enthusiasts.
Every year in June, thousands of people from all walks of life come together to take part in the Kwita Izina ceremony in Volcanoes National Park. On World Environment Day 2010, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner, Goodwill Ambassador Don Cheadle and Climate Hero Luo Hong each gave a name to one of the baby gorillas.
The names, Zoya, meaning “light” in many languages, and Waka Waka, meaning “spirited” and “to lift up” in Swahili, were selected from entries in an online competition in the run-up to WED 2010. The final name, Legacy, was chosen by UNEP to mark the launch of the WED Legacy Project in which US$10 was contributed for every environmental activity registered, resulting in close to US$100,000 being raised for gorilla protection in the host country.
Trans-boundary collaboration in protecting mountain gorillas between Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo has proved a true conservation success story, as evidenced by the 26% increase in the mountain gorilla population in the last 7 years.
Last week, another 22 baby gorillas were named at the 2011 Kwita Izina ceremony, which focused on raising global awareness of sustainable community development as a tool for mountain gorilla conservation.
Click on ‘Further Resources’ above to watch and download the three Gorilla Diaries.
For more information on Kwita Izina 2011, visit: http://www.rdb.rw/kwitizina/
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