The Rwandan community was joined by the international community to mark the traditional annual ceremony of naming new baby gorillas commonly known as “Kwita Izina” which saw the entrance of 19 new baby gorillas in the gorilla family of Rwanda.
In his message on the event, President Paul Kagame was quoted saying that Kwita Izina has gone beyond a focus on gorillas and become a potent symbol of Rwanda’s efforts to conserve the country’s biodiversity.
“Our tourism industry is strongly anchored on natural assets such as landscapes, parks, forests and rare animal and bird species We must therefore continue to protect and sustain this valuable resource base” Kagame said.
The Prime Minister of Rwanda, Dr. Pierre Damien Habumuremyi took the first shot at naming the premier gorilla- ‘Gikundiro’ (Loved one), and was followed by other delegates, especially The Chairman of East Africa Tourism Platform, Richard Rugimbana, who named another one “Akarabo” (flower).
Other names given to other baby gorillas included: Kungahara (live on) ,itabaza (resuce) , umutungo(resource), ndizeye (I trust), ihoho (Beauty), ishimwe (thanksgiving), icyeza (of goodness) ,itorero (,impamo (Reality),amatwara (colony),Kataza (grow on) ,Turimbere (develop) , Iwacu (our home), Ruhuka (Rest) ,Turere (educate), Ijabo(Sovereign) and twin gorillas- Umudende (free)and Impeta (ring) .
The Premier said that Rwandans need to contribute to the tourism industry by taking good care of the environmental aspects and take care of the tourists who frequent the national parks each year.
Habumuremyi reminded the surrounding communities of the Volcano National Park the importance of the gorillas and the huge sums of money generated from them annually and partly used to improve the livelihood of the surrounding communities.
He said that anyone who tries to damage the gorilla habitat and the park environment should be arrested and brought to book by the local leaders.
John Gara, the CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), hailed the current government for its emphasis on tourism promotion, an aspect which was not considered by the previous leaders. He asked Rwandans to continue working with the government to conserve the mountain gorillas.
“This year’s celebrations comes at a critical time when the degradation of the ecosystems has reached alarming proportions in many parts of the world,” he said
Rica Rwigamba, the Head of Tourism and Conservation at RDB said that the tourism industry continues to be the country’s top foreign exchange earner and the board is very committed to conserve the mountain gorillas as way of increasing more visitors and income from the activities.
The Rwanda development Board also run various campaigns to promote awareness on the importance of the gorilla naming ceremony and the need to pursue eco-tourism as source of income in a much greener and environmental friendly.
Residents living at foots of Virunga Mountains in Kinigi-Musanze District, Northern Province of Rwanda were part of the celebrations. They said that the tourism activities in the area have benefited the community in various ways.
“We have shared the benefits in many ways. Now we have schools, hospital and roads and even jobs because of tourism. This means that tourism is a source of livelihood for us and we are going to work hard to conserve nature” one residents” Jean Claude Mahoro said.
On this aspect, Rwigamba stated that the revenues collected from the gorillas activities accounts for the largest amount of money collected in tourism and these funds have been put together to contribute to community development for the communities around the volcanoes.
Over Rwf1.4 billion was spent during the past 8 years in support of community based projects like the provision of clean water, sanitation, schools and other social amenities and over 220 projects financed.
The annual disbursement grew from an initial Rwf41 million in 2005 to Rwf252 million in 2011, with tourist arrivals to Rwanda growing to 908,000 visitors in 2011. The gorilla tourism sector generated $9.6 million out of the $252 million revenues collected from the whole tourism industry last year.
Tourism receipts are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9% until 2012. The average spend by a visitor is $200 a day and average length of stay is one week.
This year’s annual ceremony was under the theme “Sustainable tourism for a green economy” and About 141 gorilla babies have been named since 2005.