Otara Gunewardene was recently invited by the Rwandan Government as an honorary guest to name a baby gorilla at the national Kwita Izina naming ceremony.
Kwita Izina is a traditional naming ceremony in which new born baby Gorillas are named by conservation, business, sports, fashion and show biz icons from around the world. It was introduced in 2005 to raise awareness on conservation efforts, as the Government of Rwanda, through the Rwanda Development Board has achieved great success in protecting the endangered mountain gorilla population and has worked diligently with conservation partners, the private sector and the community to conserve their natural habitat.
This year, thousands of Rwandans and conservation champions gathered at Kinigi, Musanze, on the foothills of Volcanoes National Park to celebrate the 15th Kwita Izina baby gorilla naming ceremony and to name 25 baby gorillas. It was attended by 1000 VIPs from around the world, 4000 invitees and 30000 members of the community in Rwanda. All the honorary gorilla baby namers were also given the opportunity to trek through the mountains and visit the gorilla family they will be naming in their natural habitat.
Among other celebrities that joined Otara at this year’s naming ceremony were Rwandan President Paul Kagame as Guest of Honour, Former Prime Minister of Ethiopia Hailemariam Desalegn Boshe, British supermodel Naomi Campbell, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Amina Mohammed, former Manchester United Manager Louis Van Gaal, former Arsenal FC Captain Tony Alexander Adams MBE and Grammy award winning artist Ne-Yo.
Otara had the pleasure of naming the newest member of the Pablo family, Kira, derived from the names of her two sons, Kiran and Rakhil, which also means “bless you” in Kinyarwanda, the Rwandan language.
As a result of Kwita Izina and other conservation efforts, the population of the endangered mountain gorillas had increased to 604 in 2016 in comparison to 480 in 2010 and the region’s low of 242 in 1981.
Today, Kwita Izina serves as a platform to celebrate the importance of conservation and the role of sustainable tourism in protecting Africa’s rare and endangered species.
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