Rwanda Thursday named 24 baby gorillas during this year’s traditional annual naming ceremony locally called Kwita Izina, done virtually for the first time since 2005 due to COVID-19 pandemic.
This year the naming was mainly done by the frontline protectors of the mountain gorillas, including the rangers, trackers, veterinary doctors, guides, and porters.
Three Arsenal players Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Hector Bellerin and Bernd Leno also joined this year’s naming ceremony.
Aubameyang named his baby gorilla Igitego, Bellerin called his Iriza while Leno named his Myugariro.
In a recorded message after the naming ceremony, Rwandan President Paul Kagame commended the partners in the hospitality industry who he said help make Rwanda a compelling destination.
Rwanda is famous for mountain gorilla tracking, with the endangered primates living in Volcanoes National Park contributing about 90 percent of tourism revenues from national parks.
Rwanda reopened tourism activities on June 17, 2020 after COVID-19 lockdown.
After a brief pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rwanda is once again open for visitors, said Kagame in his Thursday message.
He noted that conservation, tourism, and community development go hand in hand where each reinforces the other.
Gorilla tourism has contributed tremendously to the economy of Rwanda, with a 17 percent increase in gorilla tourism in 2019, said Belise Kariza, the Chief Tourism Officer at the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
Kariza noted the importance of reflecting on the wider benefits conservation and eco-tourism brings to local Rwandan communities surrounding the Volcanoes National Park, Akagera National Park and Nyungwe National parks.
Through the 10 percent revenue sharing scheme over the years 5.5 billion U.S. dollars has been injected in 700 community infrastructure projects such as schools, and housing, she said.
As a result there has been a significant change in behavior towards parks and wildlife as well as collaboration in anti-poaching, she noted.
Rwanda started the gorilla naming ceremony in 2005 in order to create awareness of conservation efforts for the endangered primates.
Last year, 25 baby gorillas were named.
The 16th Kwita Izina ceremony coincided with the World Gorilla Day, a global celebration of nature conservation.
Previously, the ceremony took place at the foothill of the Volcano National Park in northern Rwanda with hundreds of invited international guests and locals.
In June RDB announced a slash in gorilla permits from 1500 U.S. dollars uniform price to 200 U.S. dollars for Rwandans and East African Community nationals residing in Rwanda, and 500 U.S. dollars for foreign residents as part of promotional efforts to encourage domestic tourists.
Due to conservation efforts, the population of the endangered mountain gorilla increased to 604 in 2016 in the Virunga Massif compared to 480 in 2010, RDB had said last year.
The Virunga Massif comprises the Mikeno Sector of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park in Uganda.