One of 14 baby mountain gorillas born this year in Rwanda and named during the Kwita Izina ceremony held in Rwanda in conjunction with UNEP World Environment Day. Photo courtesy of Rwanda Development Board..
For the sixth year running, Kwita Izina, or the baby gorilla naming ceremony, has been held in Rwanda. Fourteen baby mountain gorillas were named this year during the festivities, which were held in conjunction with UNEP's World Environment Day. TreeHugger hosted a blogging contest with UNEP, which sponsored the winner, Tuesday Phillips of Ecolutionist, and one TreeHugger writer (me) on the trip.
Worldwide, mountain gorillas are categorized as "endangered" and "critically endangered," with about 700 living in the in the Virunga mountain range of Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda. This is the only region where the mountain gorilla population is known to be increasing. Poaching and deforestation remain the biggest threats to their existence.
"Every birth is an important step towards achieving our vision to see the mountain gorillas move from being one of the the world's most endangered species to being some of the world's most protected animals," said CEO of Rwandan Development Board John Gara, who gave the opening remarks.
Though the "official" festival has been held since 2005, the tradition of naming baby gorillas is a centuries-old tradition. Funds raised from the festivities have been used to build water tanks, a community center, and schools, as well as to support community programs such as an an "ex-poachers association," according to the Rwandan Development Board. This year's celebration included Rwandan President Paul Kagame, UNEP Executive Achim Steiner, actor Don Cheadle (who was named a UNEP Goodwill Ambassador), and several other dignitaries, conservationists, and global pop stars. Click through to see photos from the event and some of the adorable baby gorillas that were honored.
More on mountain gorillas, Rwanda, and World Environment Day
Dispatch from World Environment Day in Rwanda: Looking at the Biodiversity Spreadsheet
Rwanda to Expand "Forest of Hope" -- And Host World Environment Day
What Does NASA Have to Do with Clean Water in Rwanda ?
Track Ultra Rare Mountain Gorillas Online
Gorilla Reunites With The Man Who Raised Him (Video)