Kwita Izina Background
The mountain Gorillas share with the human beings 98% of the genes and about a third of the world’s total mountain gorilla’s population live in Rwanda.
The Rwanda Office of Tourism and National Park (ORTPN) and indeed the entire Rwandan community found it pertinent to extend the much cherished secular Rwandan tradition of naming every new born baby to the Gorillas as well.
The ceremony of giving a name to a new born baby commonly known as “Kwita Izina” has been part of the Rwandan tradition for centuries.
This ceremony has also been used for past 3 decades now to give names to new born gorillas. The names attributed to the gorillas play a great part in the program of monitoring of each individual and gorilla groups in its habitat. Since this started, the gorilla naming ceremony was internal to the ORTPN and its partners and especially among the field staff.
As a means of raising awareness at the national and international level about the protection of the mountain gorillas and their habitat. ORTPN launched the annual gorilla naming ceremony in 2005.
The theme of 2005 ceremony was “Ensure the Future of the Mountain Gorillas of Rwanda”.
In 2006, the theme was “Recognize the Role of the International Tourists who Selected Rwanda as Destination” and in 2007, the theme was “Caring for Wildlife Concerns Us All”.
In April 2007, Kwita Izina (to give a name) was unveiled as the new brand name for the Gorilla Naming Ceremony.
During these three last ceremonies which were very successful, ORTPN and its special guests named 30, 12 and 23 mountain gorillas, respectively.
2008: Working together to conserve our Wildlife—20 gorillas named.
In 2009 was the Fifth Annual Kwita Izina
On Saturday, June 20th 2009, the RDB Tourism & Conservation – the successor of ORTPN– will host the Fifth Kwita Izina to give names to the newest arrivals in the Gorilla families. Names will be given to eighteen (18) mountain gorillas at the Volcanoes National Park.
The 2010 year’s ceremony coincided with the “International Year of the Gorilla,” proclaimed by the United Nations.
The International Year of the Gorilla was launched at a ceremony in early December 2008, where Prince Albert II of Monaco and representatives of more than 100 governments gathered to discuss increasing measures for nearly 100 species endangered by pollution, climate change and over-hunting. By declaring 2009 the International Year of the Gorilla, the international community hopes to draw the attention of the public and funding agencies to the plight of these primates. As a country that has been in the forefront of gorilla conservation we heartily welcome the proclamation of the International Year of the Gorilla.
The theme for 2010 was “Celebrating the Year of the Gorilla”. Under this theme, we celebrated the efforts of all those that have contributed to the welfare of our wildlife and its conservation and gave opportunity to everyone to contribute to the sustainability of conservation for Gorillas.
There were over 100 key personalities in wildlife conservation and business to attend the event.
The Gorilla Naming campaign is aimed at ensuring the future of Rwanda’s mountain gorillas and will provide an opportunity for all those who care about the mountain gorillas to contribute to this common effort.
Dian Fossey Centre
Dian Fossey; January 16, 1932 – c. December 27, 1985) was an American zoologist who undertook an extensive study of gorilla groups over a period of 18 years. She studied them daily in the mountain forests of Rwanda, initially encouraged to work there by famous anthropologist Louis Leakey. She was murdered in 1985; the case remains open.
Called one of the foremost primatologists in the world while she was alive, Fossey, along with Jane Good all and Birutė Galdikas, was part of the so-called Leakey’s Angels, a group of three prominent researchers on primates (Fossey on gorillas; Good all on chimpanzees; and Galdikas on orangutans) sent by anthropologist Louis Leakey to study great apes in their natural environments.
Life and career
Dian Fossey was born in San Francisco, California to George E. Fossey III, an insurance agent, and Kathryn “Kitty” (Kidd) Fossey, a fashion model. Her father was a US Navy sailor. Her parents divorced when Dian was aged 6. Her mother remarried the following year, to businessman Richard Price. Her father tried to keep in contact, but her mother discouraged it, and all contact was subsequently lost. Dian’s stepfather, Richard Price, never took in Dian as his own child. He would not allow Dian to sit at the dining room table with him or Dian’s mother during dinner meals. A man adhering to strict discipline, Richard Price offered Dian little to no emotional support. Struggling with personal insecurity, Dian turned to animals as a way to gain acceptance. Her love for animals began with her first pet goldfish and continued throughout her entire life. At age six, she began horse riding, earning a letter from her school; by her graduation in 1954, Fossey had established herself as an equestrienne.
Educated at Lowell High School, following the guidance of her stepfather she enrolled in a business course at the College of Marin. However, a summer on a ranch in Montana at age 19 rekindled her love of animals, and she enrolled in a pre-veterinary course in biology at the University of California, Davis. In defiance to her stepfather’s wishes that she attend a business school, Dian desired to spend her professional life working with animals. As a consequence, Dian’s parents failed to give her any substantial amount of financial support throughout her adult life. She supported herself by working as a clerk at White Front (a department store), doing other clerking and laboratory work, and working as a machinist in a factory. Although Fossey had always been an exemplary student, she had difficulties with base sciences including chemistry and physics, and failed her second year of the program. She transferred to San Jose State College to study occupational therapy, receiving her bachelor’s degree in 1954. Initially following her college major, Fossey began a career in occupational therapy. She interned at various hospitals in California and worked with tuberculosis patients. Dian Fossey spent the beginning part of her career as an occupational therapist at Kosair Crippled Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky in 1956. She directed the occupational therapy department there.
Conservation work in Rwanda
On September 24, 1967, Fossey founded the Karisoke Research Center, a remote rainforest camp nestled in Ruhengeri province in the saddle of two volcanoes. For the research center’s name, Fossey used “Kari” for the first four letters of Mt. Karisimbi that overlooked her camp from the south, and “soke” for the last four letters of Mt. Visoke, the slopes of which rose to the north, directly behind camp. Established 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) up Mount Visoke, the defined study area covered 25 square kilometres (9.7 sq mi). She became known by locals as Nyirmachabelli, roughly translated as “The woman who lives alone on the mountain.”
Unlike the gorillas from the Congo side of the Virunga, the Karisoke area gorillas had never been partially habituated by Schaller’s study; they knew humans only as poachers, and it took longer for Fossey to be able to study the Karisoke gorillas at a close distance.
Many research students left after not being able to handle the cold, dark, and extremely muddy conditions around Karisoke on the slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes, where paths usually have to be cut through six-foot-tall grass with a machete.
Karisoke Research Center
The Karisoke Research Center was established in 1967 by Dian Fossey and was used as a base camp for Dian’s early research into Mountain Gorilla behaviour. Located in Volcanoes National Park, in northwest Rwanda, the Karisoke Center is so named after the two mountain peaks that frame the Center; Mount Karisimbi and Mount Visoke.
The Center is the world’s hub for the study and protection of the critically endangered Mountain Gorillas and has been operated by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International since Dian’s death.
The Centre undertakes and implements research and protection programs for Mountain Gorillas and other species in Volcanoes National Park. It also runs health and education programs in the communities surrounding the park. The center has over 100 staff, including trackers, anti-poachers, research assistants and administrative personnel.
Today, Karisoke is the greatest hope for the future of the Mountain Gorillas, and has become a significant resource for the people who live near the gorillas.