Category Archives: Gorilla tourism

Celebrating (and working) at Kwita Izina 2014!


Huge crowds gathered to hear the baby gorillas be given their names

Huge crowds gathered to hear the baby gorillas be given their names

This year’s Kwita Izina Gorilla Naming ceremony took place in Rwanda just a few days ago, and the Gorilla Organization was there to join in the celebrations!

The annual event is a way of bringing communities and conservation professionals together to celebrate the latest additions to Rwanda’s mountain gorilla population. This year, an amazing 18 baby gorillas was officially named, with Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi the guest of honour. As well as the naming ceremony itself, there was singing, dancing and even stand-up comedy!

Some of the names given to the baby gorillas (all of them born in the past 12 months) include Inkindi, which in Rwanda is the name of very valuable cloth (but not as valuable as the gorillas are to the country right now), Masunzu and Ndengera.

Kwita Izina is about so much more than celebrating our friends of the forest. It’s status as one of the biggest events on the conservation calendar in this part of Africa means it’s a great opportunity to meet up with colleagues, share tips and success stories and make new partnerships.

That’s why we set up a special Gorilla Organization stand, from which we shared stories from our community conservation projects. As you can see from the pictures I took, we brought along some furry friends to show what can be achieved with a little imagination.

Colleagues from other NGOs, as well as government officials, were delighted to hear that, by helping communities raise rabbits, we are giving them an alternative source of protein to bushmeat found in the forests. This, of course, means many people will no longer have to illegally trespass in the National Parks and, more importantly, they won’t be tempted to lay down the snares that can trap and even kill our precious gorillas!

Gorilla Organization Chairman Ian Redmond also joined me in spreading news of our work, networking with his fellow conservationists and joining in the fun and games!

Here you can see some pictures from the great day! Here’s hoping that, this time next year, we’ll have even more new baby gorillas to be welcoming into the world!



The naming committee was made up of leading conservationists and politicians from the region


Once the naming ceremony was over, the party could begin!


But it wasn't all fun and games - we had a stall to look after

But it wasn’t all fun and games – we had a stall to look after


Visitors from all over the world came to find out more about the work we do


Chairman Ian Redmond was on hand to talk to the local media

Chairman Ian Redmond was on hand to talk to the media

And he was also happy to explain how we're using solar power to reduce reliance on charcoal taken from the gorilla habitat

And he was also happy to explain how we’re using solar power to reduce reliance on charcoal taken from the gorilla habitat

Our rabbits helped to highlight the great community development work we are engaged in

Our rabbits helped to highlight the great community development work we are engaged in

Sadness and worry as Virungas head ranger is shot


Hi, this is Henry,

Here in Goma, we’re used to bad news. Even the news that one of the brave rangers working to protect the Virunga National Park has been shot is something we have sadly come to expect now. After all, over the past 10 years, more than 150 rangers have been killed for just doing their jobs.

But still, the news that the head of the park, Emmanuel de Merode (above) was shot while driving back to the headquarters was greeted with great sadness and shock. Just one week ago, Emmanuel organised a really important conference where he explained his new vision for the region. His ‘Virungas Alliance’ will have the backing of both the European Union and Howard Buffet. Millions of dollars will be invested in building a new hydro-electric plant to provide power to tens of thousands of homes, and a new water system will be constructed close to the gorilla sector in order to supply local communities with clean water and reduce their reliance on the natural resources of the forest. After months and months of despair the mood was finally one of optimism – there was even talk of reopening the park to tourists!

Tourists taking pictures of one of the gorillas at the Virungas National Park

When will it be safe to welcome tourists back to see the Congo’s gorillas?

Thankfully Emmanuel has survived the attack and is doing fine. Now we have to hope that the attack won’t derail the wonderful work he has been doing over the years. We need investment in the Virungas and so we can only hope that acts of violence don’t jeopardise this.

People are so tired of all this instability here in DR Congo. We thought that, following the recent ceasefire it was time to get back to work. But as this latest tragic shooting shows, there are still serious conflicts of interest that means true peace is unlikely to come any time soon.

Video News from the Volcanoes National Park!

Hi, this is Tuver,

Screen shot 2013-10-24 at 16.31.47

Just recently, I travelled to the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda to track mountain gorillas located there. On my tour I came across the Umubano family, which consists of 14 members and is led by the awesome alpha silverback Charles. The name Umubano is Kinyarwandan, which translated means neighborliness, and is the name of the other silverback in the group. He used to be in charge before Charles took over.

As you guys can see from this video the group is doing fine, spending their days grooming one another or playing around. Young gorillas are usually more active than their older companions, and like to wrestle, tumble and climb trees. They also develop much faster than human infants and begin to bounce and play at about 8 weeks.

I hope you guys enjoy the video I took and as usual I will keep you updated with the latest news on our gorillas here in Africa.

And now a trustee pops by Goma to say hello…

Paul meets with Henry at the Goma Resource Centre

Paul meets with DRC programmes manager Henry at the Goma Resource Centre

Hi, this is Tuver,

Just a few weeks after we had the honour of welcoming chairman Ian Redmond to this part of Africa, trustee Paul Baldwin and his wife also paid a visit, to see for themselves the work being done to protect gorillas and improve the lives of their human neighbours.

During their trip, the couple went to see mountain gorillas in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda – they even managed to see baby Iwacu, our adopted mountain gorilla – and they also visited a number of development projects there and in neighbouring Uganda. To finish off their mini tour of central Africa, Paul and Sarah crossed the border into DR Congo, where they visited the team here at the Goma Resource Centre.

As well as myself, the Baldwins met with Henry, the programmes manager for DR Congo, and together we discussed the current status of the programmes and how the money donated by generous supporters in the UK and elsewhere in the world is being put to good use transforming the lives of thousands of people and so easing the pressure being put on the gorillas’ forest home.

Here are a few pictures of their visit. If you’re visiting this part of Africa any time, we’d be happy to welcome you to the Resource Centre as well – just get in touch before you arrive!


Paul and Sarah talk gorillas and field projects with Henry

Naming the Kwita Izina baby gorillas of 2012.

Performers dancing along african rhythms

Performers dancing along to traditional african rhythms before the giving of names begins

Hi, this is Tuver,

As you know, last week I attended the eight Kwita Izina, an annual  ceremony where the baby mountain gorillas born over the past 12 months in Rwanda are officially given their names. As I hope you can see from these pictures, the atmosphere of the event was great and it so many people came from across the world celebrate the arrival of these precious babies and learn more about Rwandan culture.

This year on june 16th, 19 newborn gorillas were given names in Kinigi, the Northern Province of Rwanda. The event was chaired by Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, Prime Minister of Rwanda and I was one of thousands who looked on with joy as selected dignitaries gave the infants their names.

Some of the given names for this year’s newborns were “Icyeza” which means extreme beauty, “Ishimwe” meaning gratitude, “Itazaba” that can be translated into English as light, “Duhirwe” that means let us be lucky and “Kungahara” which means prosperous. Also, this year twins from the Susa group were born, their names “Impeta” and “Umudende” make reference of a very important and high valuable medal in Rwandan culture.

“The giving of the names for newborns remains an occasion of joy and worth celebrating” declared Ms. Rica Rwigamba, head of conservation within Rwanda Development Board (RDB), and boy was she right! There was singing and dancing and then even more dancing well into the night.

About 161 baby gorillas have been named at the Kwita Izina ceremony in Rwanda since the first festival was held  back in 2005, and The Gorilla Organization has been a proud supporter of each one.

Here are some more pictures from this year’s Kwita Izina for you to enjoy…

Delivering the given names of the newborn gorillas
Announcing the names of the gorilla babies

Digniatiries from both near and far were invited to name this year's gorilla babies


Presenting the given names of the newborn gorillas

Presenting the given names of the newborn gorillas

Enjoying the celebrations at Kwita Izina 2012

Attendees interested in knowing more about the organization

Attendees were keen to learn more about the Gorilla Organization

Hi, this is Tuver,

Along with the main gorilla-naming ceremony, a number of exciting events took place during the last week as part of Kwita Izina. For example, a day before of the giving of the names, in a ceremony called Igitaramo, attendees ate and shared corn with the communities living along the Volcanoes National Park – a great way to get everyone involved in the celebrations!

The naming ceremony of baby gorillas was not only reserved for people living near the Volcanoes National Park and other tourists, but it was also an opportunity for the different organizations that support conservation to share information and news.

An exhibition was organised at the Kigali Serena Hotel to showcase  the efforts and hard work of several NGO’s. The main focus was on sustainable tourism for a greener economy. Different exhibitors had the opportunity to present initiatives that emphasized improving energy efficiency so as to enhance the community livelihood, ecotourism for economic growth and conservation, and other technologies.

On this occasion, The Gorilla Organization had the privilege of showing the technology of solar electrification produced by illiterate women – our incredible Solar Sisters! This project was highly appreciated by the audience and it made it one of the most visited stands during the two days that the exhibition lasted. Ms. Rica Rwigamba, head of conservation within Rwanda Development Board, highlighted the activities that the organization has promoted and developed for the gorillas and the local communities in the past 20 years of its foundation.

Here are a few pictures from that exhibition so you can see for yourselves just how interested people were in our work…

Rica Rwigamba very keen to know more about our activities

Here's Rica Rwigamba of the Rwanda Development Board learning all about our work

The Gorilla Organization's stand was one of the most visited during the exhibition

The Gorilla Organization's stand was one of the most visited during the exhibition

Attendees at the Igitaramo ceremony

Attendees eating locally-grown corn at the Igitaramo ceremony

Introducing the amazing Langa…

Langa the mountain gorilla eating in the forest

Here's Langa, eating as usual! Isn't he magnificent?


Hi, this is Tuver,

Well, firstly, sorry to have left it so long since my last post! The good news is the reason for this is that the Gorilla Organization team here in Goma has been incredibly busy, working together with our amazing Solar Sisters to get solar equipment installed in the small, rural village of Rusayo. I will write a little more about this exciting development in the next couple of days.

For now, I just want to share this picture my friend Dominique, who works at the Kahuzi Biega National Park sent to me a few days ago. This is the silverback Langa. Isn’t he incredible? What’s even more exciting that just this one picture is the news that the Langa gorilla group has now been habituated. This means that, thanks to the patient work of rangers and trackers, they are now unfazed by humans. We hope that tourists will soon be able to visit them, with this helping raise some vital funds which can be used to protect gorillas, as well as other endangered species.

So, if you do visit Kahuzi Biega anytime soon, be sure to say hello to Dominque and, if you see him, say hello to Langa as well!

Gorillas safe and sound as Nyamuragira erupts…

Volacno blog post pic 1

Lava is shooting hundreds of metres into the air right next to the gorillas' home

Hi, this is Tuver,

We’re used to volcanic eruptions in this part of DR Congo. After all, we live in the shadow of eight active volcanoes, seven of them situated within the borders of the Virunga National Park. As such, once it became apparent that the current eruption of Mount Nyamulagira wouldn’t lead to a repeat of 2002, when lava from neighbouring Nyiragongo flowed into Goma and destroyed thousands of homes as well as our old Resource Centre, people just got on with their lives.

Thankfully, just as we’re used to the volcanoes, so too are the gorillas. They’ve been hearing rumblings all their lives, so this latest eruption, even though it’s only happening around ten miles away from the closest groups, is not causing them much alarm.

In fact, the eruption could be good news for wildlife here. Tourists are flocking to this side of the National Park to get a good view of the lava. This means they’re spending money here, benefitting communities and enhancing DR Congo’s reputation as a tourist destination.

Here are a few photos I managed to take of Mount Nyiragongo over the past few days…

The power of the volcano really is something to behold

The power of the volcano really is something to behold

Gorillas are living just a few miles from where the lava is flowing, but they are safe

Gorillas are living just a few miles from where the lava is flowing, but they are safe

Introducing Leonidas: Gorilla poacher turned tracker…

Hi, this is Tuver,

At last month’s Kwita Izina, I had the great pleasure of catching up with my friend Barona Leonidas.

Now, if you take a trip to see the mountain gorillas living in the Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, you may be lucky enough to have Leonidas as one of your trackers. If so, you’ll see first-hand his passion for these critically-endangered creatures, and be able to benefit from the significant wisdom he is only too eager to share with tourists.

However, this has not always been the case. In fact, up until 2007, Leonidas worked as a gorilla poacher, illegally venturing into the protected national park in order to provide for his family. But then he became one of the beneficiaries of the sensitisation projects run by the Rwanda Development Board in partnership with several conservation groups, including the Gorilla Organization. Through these we teach communities and schools all about gorillas, their plight and what can be done to help them.

Not only did Leonidas come to see that working to protect, rather than harm, gorillas would provide a better future for his seven children, he realised that sustainable conservation can help to transform entire communities across the Virunga Massif.

I’m sure you’ll agree that Leonidas is a truly wonderful man. He is still taking tourists into the Volcanoes National Park and helping with research into the gorillas living there on an almost daily basis, despite now being 68 years old. His passion for gorillas is an inspiration to myself and let’s hope his example can persuade many more poachers to embrace conservation in the years ahead.

This is Leonidas, gorilla tracker and the life and soul of the party at Kwita Izina 2011

This is Leonidas, gorilla tracker and the life and soul of the party at Kwita Izina 2011

Trackers work on the very frontline of gorilla conservation in the Volcanoes National Park

Trackers work on the very frontline of gorilla conservation in the Volcanoes National Park

Kabirizi silverback is a dad again

Having met the Kabirizi family twice I feel as if they are my family so you can imagine my joy when I saw that Kabirizi has another child. that means that Miza, the orphaned baby gorilla we wrote about in “Looking for Miza” about has another sibling!

Look at this beauty!

Kabirizi baby gorilla

Thank you Innocent for bringing us this wonderful news. I know that things are still very difficult in eastern DR Congo but the gorillas look quite peaceful thanks to our former CEO Emmanuel de Merode who is now the Virunga National Park warden and his team of dedicated rangers on the ground.