Rwanda is set to give names to 24 endangered mountain baby gorillas born late last year and this year in an annual gorilla conservation event commonly known as “Kwita Izina”, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) announced Friday.
Unlike the previous years that convened together thousands of participants including international guests, this year’s celebrations will be held virtually to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Ariella Kageruka, acting chief tourism officer with RDB at a press conference in the Rwandan capital Kigali.
The event will take place on September 24, and will be the 17th of its kind held so far, according to Kageruka.
“This year, Rwanda is inviting the world to be part of the ultimate celebration of life, as 24 new baby gorillas will be named during the ceremony. Since the inception of this annual event in 2005, we have named 328 baby gorillas,” she said.
Kageruka said that this year’s baby gorilla naming celebration will showcase Rwanda’s conservation efforts, including the health of the mountain gorillas and the need to expand their habitat and how the livelihoods of communities have been improved while enabling wildlife conservation.
“The pandemic has emphasized the importance of building partnerships to support conservation even as tourist numbers dwindle. We appreciate our conservation partners who have joined us in this journey,” she said.
The baby gorilla naming event has become a major tourism ceremony in the small central African country. It has boosted efforts to conserve endangered mountain gorillas which have enabled Rwanda to tap tourism revenues hinged on conservation.
According to Kageruka, Rwanda recorded a sharp decline in tourism revenues last year, amounting to 121 million U.S. dollars. This was a sharp decline from the 498 million U.S. dollars generated in 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tourism activities were suspended for months due to COVID-19 in Rwanda before the country reopened the tourism sector in June 2020, with a sharp cut in the price of permits for tracking endangered mountain gorillas.
The previous events attracted thousands of Rwandans, members of the diplomatic corps, foreign dignitaries, sports personalities, philanthropists and conservation enthusiasts from across the world to participate in the baby gorilla naming ceremony at the foothills of the Virunga Massif, in Kinigi sector, Musanze district, northern Rwanda.
Kageruka pointed out that through a partnership with Alibaba, RDB has been promoting Rwanda as a tourist destination to China.
“Through the partnership we have with Alibaba, we are continuing to look at how we can intensify our activities by hosting targeted travel media and trade from China that can allow us to penetrate the Chinese market better,” she added.