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Kwita Izina Rwanda’s Annual Gorilla Naming Ceremony 2023

There were 23 baby mountain gorillas named at Kwita Izina. The world meets in Rwanda Kinigi to name baby mountain gorillas and celebrate conservation September 1, 2023. The Rwanda Development Board was pleased to announce that the 19th Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming Ceremony was held on Friday, 1 September 2023.

Kwita Izina is a baby gorilla naming ceremony. Every year, the new born baby gorillas in Volcanoes National Park are given names. The idea rips off the Rwandese tradition where a new born baby is officially given a name by the respected elder in the family. Rwanda began officially naming its mountain gorillas in what has become a global celebration of nature. By giving a name to these majestic animals, they are given a value they undoubtedly deserve.

This 2023 edition was held on the foothills of Volcanoes National Park in Kinigi, Musanze District, joining the communities living around the home of the endangered mountain gorillas in the ultimate celebration of nature and conservation. This event was attended by several dignitaries, celebrities, conservationists and local people living around the home of the endangered mountain gorillas.

The theme for the 2023 Kwita Izina which is the 19th edition was “Conservation is Life”. The ceremony was enhanced by first lady of Rwanda, Her Excellency the First Lady of Rwanda, Jeannette Kagame.

The ceremony will see the naming of 23 baby mountain gorillas born in the last 12 months. 374 baby gorillas have been named since the beginning of the naming ceremony first held in 2005. This year’s namers, who will be unveiled closer to the day, include notable partners, conservationists, international and local personalities, dignitaries and friends of Rwanda.

The celebration showcased Rwanda’s conservation efforts, including Rwanda’s successful low volume, high value approach to gorilla tourism that has enabled the gorilla population to thrive and provide better gorilla trekking safari experiences to visitors. Current tourism figures show that Rwanda generated US$ 247 million in the first half of 2023, a 56% increase compared to US$ 158 million in the same period in 2022.

Among the leading lights names that have named gorillas in the previous editions include the former Chelsea football star Didier Drogba, the King of England, Gilberto Silva, Sauti Sol Band among several other notable names.

The ceremony is, first and foremost, an opportunity to thank the communities that live around the gorilla habitat, Volcanoes National Park, research partners, vets and the dedicated conservationists, rangers and trackers who protect the gorillas daily.

Today, Kwita Izina forms part of an ambitious strategy to preserve Rwanda’s natural heritage and further expand the role of tourism in the country’s transformation. As a result of the naming ceremony, Rwandans from all walks of life understand the intrinsic value of gorillas and their contribution to the country’s economic prosperity. Rwandans have become gorilla guardians.

Kwita Izina Namers for the 19th Edition

Kevin Hart

Kevin Darnell Hart is an American comedian and actor. Originally known as a stand-up comedian. “I’m a Grown Little Man” and “Let Me Explain.” Hart has appeared in numerous films, including “Think Like a Man” and “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” He’s known for his humor and charisma, becoming a Hollywood superstar, showcasing his journey from a stand-up comedian to a prominent entertainer.

Sol Campbell

Sulzeer Jeremiah Campbell is an English professional football manager and former player who was most recently the manager of National League club Southend United. A centre-back, he spent 20 years playing in the Premier League and had an 11-year international career with the England national team. He earned 73 caps for the England national team and later ventured into coaching and managerial roles, solidifying his status as a respected figure in English football.

Larry Green

Larry Green, a member of The Edsels American doo-wop group; Larry Green (musician), who charted with his recording of “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”, known for his passion for African wildlife and the preservation of their habitats.

Bernard Lama

Bernard Lama is a French former professional footballer who played as a goalkeeper.  He gained recognition for his remarkable career in club and international football. Lama played for several clubs in France, most notably Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), where he achieved significant success. He was known for his shot-stopping prowess.

On the international stage, Lama represented the French national team during the 1994 FIFA World Cup and the victorious 2000 UEFA European Championship. After retiring from professional football, he remained involved in the sport through punditry and commentary, leaving a lasting legacy in French football history.

Ineza Umuhoza Grace

Ineza Umuhoza Grace is an eco-feminist, climate activist and environmentalist from Kigali, Rwanda. She is the CEO of The Green Protector, coordinator of the Loss and Damage Youth Coalition and Research Assistant for the CCLAD project. She was a Global Citizen Prize winner in 2023

Anders Holch Povlsen

Anders Holch Povlsen is a Danish billionaire, CEO and sole owner of the international retail clothing chain Bestseller, a company founded by his parents. He is the largest shareholder in the British internet fashion retailer ASOS and second-largest in German internet clothing retailer Zalando

Audrey Azoulay

Audrey Azoulay is a French civil servant and politician who has been serving as the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization since 2017, becoming the second female leader of the organization. Audrey Azoulay is a distinguished French civil servant and diplomat. She served as France’s Minister of Culture from 2016 to 2017 before becoming the Director-General of UNESCO in November 2017, making her the first Jewish and second female to hold this role.

Winston Duke

Winston Duke is a Tobagonian actor. He made his feature film debut in the role of M’Baku in Black Panther and is best known for portraying the character in four films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Duke was born in the village of Argyle, Tobago. With his sister and mother, Duke moved to Brooklyn at age nine. Winston Duke has become a notable figure in the entertainment industry, admired for his acting skills and contributions to cinema

Jonathan Ledgard

J.M. Ledgard is a British born novelist and an expert in advanced technology, nature, and risk in emerging markets. He also works with conceptual artists. He has contributed to publications like The Economist and The New York Times, covering diverse topics including technology and global issues. Ledgard is celebrated for his thought-provoking writing and insightful commentary.

Zurab Pololikashvili

Zurab Pololikashvili is a Georgian politician and diplomat, currently serving as Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization. From 2005 to 2009 he was Georgian deputy Foreign Minister, and he served as ambassador to Spain, Morocco, Algeria and Andorra.

Under his leadership, UNWTO has engaged in initiatives addressing tourism development, sustainability, and recovery, particularly in response to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Pololikashvili’s work has made a significant impact on the global tourism sector, fostering economic growth and societal benefits through responsible tourism practices.

Rt. Hon. Andrew Mitchell MP

Andrew John Bower Mitchell (born 23 March 1956) is a British politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Sutton Coldfield since 2001. He presently holds the position of Minister of State in the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office in the United Kingdom. With an extensive political career, he previously served as Secretary of State for International Development. Mitchell is an active Member of Parliament, contributing significantly to the UK’s foreign affairs, development, and foreign policy initiatives.

H.E. Hazza Alqahtani

H.E. Hazza Alqahtani has served as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ambassador to Rwanda since 2018. Prior to this role, he was the advisor in the Department of African Affairs in the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Idris Elba

Idrissa Akuna Elba OBE is an English actor. An alumnus of the National Youth Music Theatre in London, he is known for roles including Stringer Bell in the HBO series The Wire, DCI John Luther in the BBC One series Luther, and Nelson Mandela in the biographical film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Beyond acting, he’s a successful musician and DJ. Elba’s talent and versatility have established him as a highly respected and sought-after figure in the entertainment industry.

Sabrina Dhowre Elba

Sabrina Dhowre Elba is a Canadian model, media personality, and goodwill ambassador of the United Nations. She gained fame in the fashion industry for her modeling work and is notable for her marriage to actor Idris Elba. The couple married in 2019 and is recognized for their philanthropic efforts in education and healthcare. Sabrina’s combination of modeling success and her high-profile marriage has established her as a notable figure in the entertainment and fashion world. She is currently a UN Goodwill Ambassador for IFAD.

Danai Gurira

Danai Jekesai Gurira is a Zimbabwean–American actress and playwright. She is best known for her starring roles as Michonne on the AMC horror drama series The Walking Dead and as Okoye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero films, including Black Panther and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Beyond her artistic pursuits, she’s a vocal advocate for social and humanitarian causes, making her a prominent figure in the entertainment industry and an influential voice on important issues.

Nick Stone

Nick Stone holds diverse roles in direct management, advisory, and director positions within portfolio companies. Formerly a Vice President at TPG Capital, he oversaw investments of $20 billion in revenue and $2.5 billion in equity capital. Stone’s prior experience includes work at KKR, where he focused on healthcare investments. Currently, he serves as the Project Manager for Soccer City, a prominent San Diego ballot initiative. His extensive career and industry expertise make him a valuable asset in finance and strategic management.

Cyrille Bolloré

Cyrille Bolloré is a French businessman and a member of the Bolloré family. He is notable for his role as Chairman and CEO of the Bolloré Group, a multinational conglomerate with diverse interests in logistics, transportation, energy, and media.

Bolloré has been actively involved in managing and expanding the family business, which holds a significant global presence, particularly in Africa. His leadership and contributions have solidified the Bolloré Group’s position as a major player in various industries.

Prof. Özlem Türeci And Dr Sierk Poetting

Prof. Özlem Türeci, M.D is a distinguished German immunologist and physician. She is renowned as a co-founder of BioNTech, a biotechnology company, and played a pivotal role in the development of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, a groundbreaking achievement during the pandemic.

Her contributions extend to cancer immunotherapy research, earning her international acclaim. Prof. Türeci’s pioneering work in mRNA technology and vaccine development has had a profound impact on global health, making her a prominent figure in the fields of medicine and immunology. Prof. Özlem Türeci And Dr Sierk Poetting represent BioNtech which is establishing a sustainable vaccine manufacturing facility in Rwanda

Innocent Dusabeyezu

Innocent Dusabeyezu has been a game ranger in Volcanoes National Park since 2007. He is among the most respected game rangers in Rwanda because of his dedication to gorilla monitoring. He has also recently won the 2023 Rwanda Development Board Best perform award.

Bukola Elemide

Bukola Elemide, known as Asa, is a Nigerian-French singer-songwriter born in Paris in 1982. Her unique music blends soul, pop, jazz, and African influences. Asa gained worldwide acclaim with her 2007 self-titled debut album, featuring hits like “Jailer” and “Fire on the Mountain.” Her soulful and introspective lyrics have earned her critical acclaim and numerous awards, establishing her as a prominent figure in both Nigerian and international music.

Joakim Noah

Joakim Noah is a former NBA star known for his defensive prowess and intensity. He achieved collegiate success with the Florida Gators, securing two NCAA championships. Selected ninth overall in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls, he played for various teams during his NBA career, earning two All-Star nods and the 2014 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award. Post-retirement, Noah engages in philanthropy and advocates for social justice causes, amplifying his impact beyond the basketball court.

Lais Ribeiro

Lais Ribeiro is a Brazilian celebrated model for her stunning presence and high-profile fashion work. As a Victoria’s Secret Angel, she graced the renowned Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show multiple times. Ribeiro’s portfolio includes campaigns for iconic brands like Victoria’s Secret, H&M, and Chanel. Her striking beauty and runway success have solidified her status as a top Brazilian model, ensuring her enduring prominence in the fashion world.

Queen Kalimpinya

Queen is a Rwanda national known for her career as a Rally car driver and a Gender equality advocate.

Joe Schoendorf

Joe Schoendorf is a renowned venture capitalist and tech executive, noted for his significant contributions to the industry. With a distinguished career, he has been a key partner at Accel Partners (now Accel) specializing in tech investments. Accel is recognized for nurturing early-stage startups, and Schoendorf played a pivotal role in its success. His expertise remains a valuable asset in the tech and venture capital sectors.

Elvine Ineza

Elvine Ineza is the youngest baby namer for the 2023 Kwita Izina. She is an award-winning student from Regina Pacis primary school in the Musanze district.

List of mountain gorilla babies named at the Kwita Izina

  • Impundu meaning acclamation
  • Ramba meaning sustainable
  • Gakondo meaning tradition
  • Aguka meaning expansion
  • Ingoboka meaning support
  • Mukundwa meaning favoured
  • Bigwi meaning achiever
  • Mugisha mwaning blessing
  • Inganzo meaning origin
  • Jijka meaning enlightenment
  • Inshingano meaning responsibility
  • Uburinganire meaning gender equality
  • Umucunguzi meaning redeemer
  • Urunana meaning collaboration
  • Gisubizo meaning solution
  • Umutako meaning Ornament
  • Turumwe Oneness
  • Intiganda meaning humble and brave
  • Nibagwire meaning multiply
  • Intarumikwa meaning resilient giant
  • Ikirango meaning symbol
  • Narame meaning long life
  • Murare meaning sleepover