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Tourism

Rwanda's gorilla naming festival attracts thousands

Every year Rwanda's gorilla naming ceremony attracts thousands. One gorilla was even named by Rwandan Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi.

Every year Rwanda's gorilla naming ceremony attracts thousands of tourists, dignitaries, conservation enthusiasts, local people and the international media. 19 gorillas, all born in 2011, were named this year at the foot of the Virunga Mountains in Northern province. For the first time, two twin gorillas were also named.

With an estimated gorilla population of 500 (2006 census), the mountain primates are a major tourist attraction in the Central African country.

Specially selected individuals have the honor of naming the baby gorillas. Several names are proposed by rangers, who know the animals well, and the "namer" makes the final choice. The names do really signfy something, perhaps the circumstances surrounding the animal's birth, or the place where it lives.

Among the 20 dignitaries called upon to name gorillas was the president of the International Council for Tourism Partners, Professor Geoffrey Lipman. One gorilla was even named by Rwandan Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi. It was given the name Gikundiro which means "the beautiful one" after Rwandans voted it the cutest baby gorilla.

Only country to name gorillas

Rwanda shares the gorilla triangle of the Virunga Mountains with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, but  is the only country that dedicates an entire festival to the primates. Gorillas are important for the economy of Rwanda as they attract thousands of tourists every. Out of a total of $252 million (200 million euros) in revenue generated by the tourism sector last year, $10 million (8 million euros) came from the gorillas.

John Gara, CEO of Rwanda Development Board, which oversees the countries tourism sector, told DW that such naming ceremonies have a broader significance for the nature conservation and sustainable development. “This year’s ceremony comes at a critical time when degeneration of the eco-system has reached alarming proportions in many parts of the world." he explained. "For us this event is always an opportunity to show our commitment towards the green path of economic growth,” Gara said.

Gorillas help to fight poverty

Getting the local community involved was the key to ensuring that conservation really worked. Through tourism, Musanze District, which is where the gorillas live, has become the third most successful area in the country in the fight against poverty.

“We feel the impact of tourism here in Musanze. Our children go to school because they built schools and we also have electricity,” a resident told DW.

Author: Flora Kaitesi
Editor: Mark Caldwell

DW.DE