Three Arsenal football players have participated in this year’s Kwita Izina ceremony in Rwanda. Kwita Izina is an annual ceremony to name newly born baby gorillas in Rwanda.
Arsenal first team players Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Hector Bellerin and Bernd Leno each named a gorilla.
“Three great Arsenal players are leaving their mark on a new generation of baby gorillas today,” Rwanda President Paul Kagame said on Thursday September 24, 2020 during the World Gorilla Day celebrations.
“Arsenal is a good partner in our effort to show the importance of conservation, and why visiting Rwanda is such a special experience,” he added in a virtual ceremony.
English football club, Arsenal have been advertising “Visit Rwanda” on players’ sleeves for the past two years. The campaign, which was controversial at its launch, has lifted overall tourism numbers by about 10%.Kigali and Arsenal signed a 3-year deal worth £30 million (€34 million) deal in May 2018.
Two dozen mountain gorillas born in Rwanda last year have been named in the annual ceremony taking place virtually for the first time due to the covid 19 pandemic.
The 24 infant gorillas have been named by those that protect and care for them in Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda in the annual Kwita Izina naming ceremony.
The infant gorillas who included 15 baby boys and 9 baby girls were named at the 16th Gorilla Naming Ceremony -‘Kwita Izina’ in Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills.
For the first time, the event did not take namers and several celebrities to Musanze, home to the rare mountain gorillas for the colorful event-the event was held virtually to avoid the spread of the COVID-19.
Namers were largely frontline people who stayed with the gorillas and never abandoned them, not even during the hardest period where everyone had to stay at home due to COVID-19 lockdown.
And these included rangers, porters, guides, trackers and a retired veterinarian who has a great history with the gorillas. These are people who have a great history with the primates which are available only in the volcano massif that stretch between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“This year, we bring special focus, to the rangers, trackers, vets, guides and porters who protect our precious mountain gorillas. Their dedication is reflected in the 24 baby gorillas receiving their names today,” Kagame said.
“I commend people living around the park for being good stewards of the natural environment and such a warm host for our visitors,” he added
Kwita Izina celebration first began in 2004, inspired by the ancient Rwandan tradition of families gathering friends to welcome a new baby.
The annual celebration honors not only the new births of mountain gorillas in Volcanoes National Park, but also Rwanda’s conservation success in bringing mountain gorillas back from the brink of extinction.
The COVID-19 pandemic which has put everything on a standstill since early this year has not spared tourism. However, with time, Rwanda is finding a formula to keep almost everything working virtually.
The 16th Kwita Izina, was aired live on Rwanda Broadcasting Agency and the Visit Rwanda website, from 3pm on Thursday September 24, 2020 under the theme “Conservation and Sustainable Tourism – A Foundation for Future Generations”
This year, 24 baby gorillas that call Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park home will be named by the Volcanoes National Park staff – the frontliners of conservation who protect and care for them every day.
They will include the park rangers, guides, wardens, trackers and veterinary doctors to mention but a few.
World Gorilla Day marks the day that renowned gorilla conservationist Dian Fossey established the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda in 1967. It is a day that encourages people around the globe to join conservation efforts to protect gorillas in the wild.
Commenting on this year’s event, the Rwanda Development Board Chief Tourism Officer, Belise Kariza said that this year, unlike the past years where namers were selected from a wide range of categories, including celebrities, the focus was on the core people who contribute to conservation.
“Having Kwita Izina virtually this year gives us the opportunity to celebrate those who are at the forefront of protecting the endangered mountain gorillas and share Rwanda’s conservation success with Rwandans,”Kariza said.
“We hope to inspire everyone to visit our beautiful country and experience the wonder of trekking to see the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Rwanda is open for tourism, and the sector underpins so much of our conservation work. That’s why we are proud of the impact of sustainable tourism on our national development and environmental protection efforts,” she added.
Last year, 25 baby gorillas were named by conservation champions from all over the world. Over the last 15 years, more than 300 mountain gorillas have been named in the ceremony. There are over 1,000 mountain gorillas living in the world, more than half of which live in the Virunga Mountains, and the remainder can be found in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, according to World Wildlife Fund
The Gorilla Kwita Izina tradition was first introduced in 2005 to highlight the importance of the conservation of the endangered mountain gorillas and recognize the role of those who have dedicated their work to conserve them.
Rwanda largely depends on tourism for its revenue and national pride. There are plans by Kigali administration to double tourism revenues from $ 498 million last year to $800 million in the next four years.
UJA House, Bombo Rd,
Keti Falawo Zone, Kawempe Division
Kampala – Uganda