Rwanda on Friday September 7, 2018 named 23 endangered mountain gorilla babies in a traditional naming ceremony that honored people including former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Nelson Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel.
The annual event known as Kwita Izina in the East African country, tourism authorities borrow from a Rwandan tradition of giving names to children between three months and one year after birth. The 23 babies were born into 12 gorilla families in 2017, with the youngest only two months old, and the eldest about 14 months old.
With 604 of the apes in the Virunga Massif, a range of volcanic mountains traverses Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the United Nations census earlier this year. There were about 400 in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park alone, according to an earlier count in 2011.
Rwanda Development Board says it has 256 of the primates in its Volcanoes National Park and charges a $1,500 license fee per person to track them in the wild. The annual event introduced in 2005 is geared toward marketing the endangered species and boosting that nation’s conservation efforts, which include adding 30,000 hectares (74,130 acres) of land to protected habitat.
Friday’s event honored South African musical duo, Mafikizolo, philanthropists such as Zimbabwean businessman Strive Masiyiwa and Malian Samba Bathily.
Rwanda tourism board will also recognize conservationists Sheikh Abdulaziz Ali Bin Rashid Al Nuami, or the Green Sheikh, a royal from the United Arab Emirates, Noeline Raondry Rakotoarisa of the Unesco, and Conservation International for Africa’s Michael O’Brien-Onyeka.
Nigeria’s former president Obasanjo who attended Friday’s ceremony named a gorilla his middle name, Aremu, while South Africa’s first girl Machel gave hers the moniker Urugori, Kinyarwanda for crown.