British actor Idris Elba to name a baby gorilla in Rwanda

Thursday August 31 2023

English actor Idris Elba. PHOTO | AFP


The annual mountain gorilla naming ceremony, locally known as 'Kwita Izina', is set to kick off on Friday in Kinigi, northern Rwanda.

The event, now in its 19th edition, brings together conservationists, celebrities, renowned philanthropists and diplomats to celebrate the country’s success in protecting the endangered mountain gorilla species.

The star-studded line-up to name baby gorillas at the foothills of the Volcanoes National Park includes British Actor - Idris Elba and his wife Sabrina Dhowere Elba, who is a model, activist and UN Goodwill Ambassador for Ifad, Nigerian-French Singer -Songwriter Bukola Elemidie, (aka Asa), American comedian and actor Kevin Hart.   

Read: Star-studded line up of baby gorilla namers in Rwanda

The list also includes foreign government officials, business leaders as well and creative artists including the UK's Minister for Africa Andrew Mitchell, Ambassador Hazza Alqahtani, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Rwanda, Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary General, United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO),  Audrey Azoulay, Director General of United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), Prof Ozlem Tureci, Chief Medical Officer, BioNtech SE and Dr Sierk Poetting, Chief Operating Officer BioNtech SE among others. 

The stars will be naming 23 baby gorillas that were born in Rwanda between September 2022 and September 2023. 374 baby gorillas have been named since the beginning of the naming ceremony first held in 2005.


The baby gorillas are members of the Agashya, Muhoza, Mutobo, Hirwa, Pablo, Ntambara, Dushishoze, Segasira, Isimbi, Musirikari, Kwitonda, Igisha and Sabyinyo families. 

"We are excited to welcome the world to Musanze tomorrow to highlight the incredible conservation work being done to ensure there are new baby gorillas to be named every year," said Matthew Miller, the Director of Virunga Valley Academy, an American International School in Musanze in a tweet posted on Thursday ahead of the event. 

Tourism is on a rebound, with the country earning $247 million in the first half of 2023, a 56 per cent increase compared to $158 million in the same period in 2022 according to figures released by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).

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“This year we celebrate the gains made in our tourism and conservation efforts, notably the majestic mountain gorillas. Last year, Rwanda’s gorilla tourism was the best-performing segment, and the trend shows that 2023 is expected to grow further and take us beyond recovery and towards our national targets. This means the communities are benefiting more, tourists getting enhanced experiences and the gorilla populations are thriving thanks to all stakeholders who actively participate in their daily conservation,” said Ms Clare Akamanzi, the Chief Executive Officer of RDB in a statement ahead of the event. 

She added that Rwanda is diversifying its tourism revenues by promoting other tourist attractions and new offerings such as the Mice (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events) and sports tourism industries.

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According to RDB, the naming ceremony will showcase 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 trekking experiences to visitors.

Since 2005, the government initiated a tourism revenue share program to improve the livelihoods of park communities by ensuring that 10 per cent of all park revenues are returned to the communities.

Over Rwf10 billion (about $9 million) has been spent on more than 1,000 community-based projects around Akagera, Nyungwe, Volcanoes and Gishwati-Mukura National Parks since the start of the program.

This year, RDB will launch two community projects, including a maternity unit and potato seeds collection and conservation unit for residents to access maternal healthcare and quality seeds in Muganza Sector, Nyaruguru District in the Southern Province.