Mountain gorillas rank among the world's most endangered species, numbering just around 800 in the forests of Africa, so any gorilla baby births are a cause for celebration. But in Rwanda, where the largest population of the great apes are making a gradual recovery, every hairy new arrival is heralded with a name and a party.
The festivities, known as Kwita Izina, are part of a tradition which began in 2003 based on an African naming ceremony once reserved just for humans. Every year, newborn offspring observed in the species' habitat in the Virunga Mountains are photographed and monitored by conservationists, later to be celebrated and formally given a name.
But these Kwita Izina are no small affairs. In addition to the tens of thousands of local villagers usually in attendance, dignitaries, heads of state, international celebrities, and even the occasional TreeHugger also join in the festivities -- which include music, dancing, and of course, gorilla-naming.
In the last decade, 161 gorillas have been named -- bolstering their presence in the wild by 23 percent, all while raising awareness of their still-fragile existence.
At this year's Kwita Izina, 12 recently arrived baby gorillas will be celebrated and named. And oh my, are they adorable:
Click here to gush over images of all the as-yet-unnamed honorees.
Kwita Izina is just one way that Rwanda is keeping focus on this endangered species, though it's so far done wonders to aid in their conservation. Threats do remain for mountain gorillas, like poaching and habitat loss, but as more and more people are encouraged to consider our primate cousins as causes for celebration, it can only help them thrive.