Category Archives: Rwanda

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!

 

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

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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

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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

How to tell gorillas apart?

Hello, this is Emmanuel,

I recently went into the Virunga Mountains in northern Rwanda to see how our little mountain gorilla Iwacu and her family are doing. It took us about 2 hours until we found her and mother Turiho at a beautiful glade, collecting food.

As you can see from the picture below, little Iwacu, who is usually very lively, was not in a very playful mood that morning, as it is currently rainy season in Rwanda which mountain gorillas are not really keen of. Unfortunately, we could not detect any other family members, but I’m sure they are all well off and were just finding shelter from the rain somewhere.

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Did you actually ever ask yourself how gorillas are distinguished and how we knew that the mountain gorillas we came across were Iwacu and her mom Turiho? Well, there are two distinct differences every gorilla has. The first one is their fingerprint. Just like humans every gorilla has a unique fingerprint, that tells their identity. However, since it is impossible to always take fingerprints of every gorilla we come across, we just tell them apart by the shape of their noses. Just like the fingerprint every gorilla has a uniquely shaped nose, which allows trackers to tell our beautiful cousins apart.

I hope you all like the picture I took of Iwacu, and I will keep you updated with more news on our lovely gorillas down here in Africa.

Video News from the Volcanoes National Park!

Hi, this is Tuver,

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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.

Strategy meeting in Kampala!

 

Hi, this is Tuver,

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I am currently in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, attending the annual staff strategy meeting of our organization. The purpose of this meeting is to reflect on the projects and achievements of 2013 as well as to plan new and better strategies and projects to save gorillas, for the year ahead of us.

Among the attendees we had our Chairman Ian Redmond and Executive Director Jilian Miller as well as our DR Congo Program Manager Henry, and our Program Managers Emmanuel and Sam who came in from Rwanda and Uganda (see picture above).

It is really exciting to see everybody again and to work together on our objectives for 2014. The determination by my colleges to help, not only the gorillas but also the local communities here in central Africa who suffer poverty, is amazing and makes me look forward to the New Year!

Thank you all for your ongoing support and as always I will keep you updated with the latest news on our work here in Africa.

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The Solar Sisters are back!

The excitement and happiness of our ladies arriving at the airport

The excitement and happiness of our ladies arriving at the airport

Hi this is Emmanuel,

After a hard six months of training, our special team of ladies, The Solar Sisters from Rwanda, are back and ready to bring electricity to their home villages!

In March 2012, the Gorilla Organization, along with the Government of Rwanda ,UNESCO and the Government of India sent a team of four illiterate women to India to receive special training at the Barefoot College to become solar energy engineers. This project will be benefiting two sectors including Musanze of Musanze district, (Northern Province of Rwanda) and Bugeshi of Rubavu district (Western Province of Rwanda).

If you remember, a few months ago, the first team of Solar Sisters from DR Congo came back from the training in India and successfully installed electricity in the Rusayo village. They also held a couple of demonstrations in Burusi and Ngitse and the plan was to solar electrify 50 houses in each of the two villages surrounding Mount Tshiabirimu (area of Virunga National Park, DR Congo).

The Solar Ladies from Rwanda arrived in mid-September at the Entebbe Airport in Uganda and the excitement took over the place as you can see in the photographs. They were so happy to come back to their families and friends, but most importantly for having learned so much bringing along a lot of benefits to their villages, like giving the children the possibility of study after it’s gone dark and their parents the chance to work past dusk.

I will be sure to keep you posted with more news and updates about this, but for now let’s congratulate our ladies for coming back home safe and sound and for their great achievement in becoming experts in solar energy!

Solar Sisters arriving at Enttebe airport in Uganda

Solar Sisters arriving at Enttebe airport in Uganda

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

Paying a visit to the Nyakagenzi gorilla group…

Here I am, in the presence of the handsome blackback Rukundo

Hi, this is Tuver,

Despite the insecurity troubling this part of DR Congo, work has to go on as usual. Luckily for me, this meant a trip into the Volcano National Park in Rwanda to check up on the Nyakagezi gorilla group. Actually, I was on my way to Kasese, where I attended a regional meeting of the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration, so, along with a fellow journalist from Uganda, I seized the opportunity to go and see these amazing gorillas.

As you can see from the pictures that I took, the group is doing well, especially the two youngsters, Marc and Fred, who were playing the whole time I visited – luckily, the silverback Bigingo was patient and didn’t get too annoyed by their antics. And, despite the fact that this groups is not that used to having visitors – it is not open to tourists but has been fully habituated – all the gorillas were completely at ease, meaning I could watch them eat, sleep and play. So, enjoy these pictures and let’s hope the Nyakagezi group continues to go from strength to strength!

Despite not being regularly visited by tourists, the gorillas weren't worried about my presence

 

The youngsters Marc and Fred were playing under the watchful eye of blackback Bigingo

And here's Bigingo on his own, looking really impressive these days!

 

Relfecting on a good year and making plans for 2012..

Here is a picture from the meeting. From left to right you can see: Emmanuel, our Rwandan Programme Manager,  Sam, our Ugandan Programme Manager and Henry, our Congolese Programme Manager, and Jillian Miller, our Executive Director

Here is a picture from the meeting. From left to right you can see: Emmanuel, our Rwandan Programme Manager, Sam, our Ugandan Programme Manager and Henry, our Congolese Programme Manager, and Jillian Miller, our Executive Director

Hi, this is Tuver,

I’ve just got back to Goma after going to Kampala to attend the Gorilla Organization’s annual strategy meeting. As always, it was great to catch up with my colleagues from other countries and talk about how our respective projects are helping transform communities and safeguard gorillas. It’s really inspiring to see everyone working towards a common goal and to see how your generous support is helping make a real difference in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo.

Joined by our director Jillian Miller, we began the meeting discussing what we have achieved over the past 12 months and it was clear from listening to my colleagues that our conservation and poverty reduction projects have continued to meet, and in some cases even exceed, their targets.

We also talked about our plans for the year ahead. We are hoping to implement more than 20 projects across the three countries in 2012, all of them geared towards helping both the gorillas and the people who live alongside their forest home. Activities supported will include beekeeping in Kisoro, Uganda, conservation radio programmes in Goma, DR Congo and agricultural training in Rwanda.

It’ll certainly be a busy, and hopefully a highly-productive, year! I look forward to keeping you updated with news on our work here in Africa and thank you for your ongoing support.

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

Rwanda’s mountain gorilla babies named at Kwita Izina

One of the 22 mountain gorilla babies named at the Kwita Izina ceremony

One of the 22 mountain gorilla babies named at the Kwita Izina ceremony

Hi, this is Tuver,

So, the seventh Kwita Izina has now come to an end, and what an exciting few days it has been! It was so inspiring to see so many people come together to celebrate these latest additions to Rwanda’s mountain gorilla population.

After the serious nature of the opening day’s conference, where delegates investigated ways to work with the communities living on the edge of the Volcanoes National Park to protect the endangered gorillas, it was time to party. And what better way to celebrate our remarkable forest-dwelling cousins than to ‘baptise’ 22 of the babies born over the past 12 months names in traditional a Rwandan ceremony?

Rwanda’s prime minister Bernard Makuza, as well as the Dutch ambassador to the country and various conservation group heads were among those naming the new gorillas. So, from now on, the Gorilla Organization will be keeping an eye on Indamutso (meaning ‘greetings’ in Kinywarwanda), Urahirwa (meaning ‘prospects’) and Sakaara (meaning ‘known everywhere’). Also, I’m sure you’ll be interested to hear that the twins born to Kabatwa back in February were given the names Isangano (or ‘meeting place) and Isango (‘appointment’).

Once the actual naming ceremony had come to an end, the crowd of thousands, drawn from the communities living on the edge of the protected gorilla habitat and joined by government officials and numerous visiting dignitaries, were treated to a concert of dance and live music.

Here are a few pictures from this great weekend and let’s hope we’ll be naming even more mountain gorilla babies this time next year…

Dignitaries travelled from all over the world to name the mountain gorilla infants

Dignitaries name the mountain gorilla infants while costumed conservation fans look on

Thousands of people from communities on the edge of the Volcanoes National Park attended Kwita Izina 2011

People from communities on the edge of the Volcanoes National Park flocked to Kwita Izina 2011

Once the ceremony was over, it was time for to party - Rwandan style!

Once the ceremony was over, it was time to party - Rwandan style!