Counting Down to Kwita Izina

Counting Down to Kwita Izina

Anna Behm Masozera

Living in a tropical climate means that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish one part of the year from another. The clues - more rain or less rain - are more subtle than more temperate climates. However, you know it is June when talk of the town is Kwita Izina, or the annual gorilla-naming ceremony held in Rwanda.

This year, on Saturday, June 16, nineteen young mountain gorillas born in Volcanoes National Park over the last year will be given a name. These young gorillas will be visited by tourists, monitored by trackers, and given veterinary care if needed throughout their lives. That's a big commitment and one that no one takes lightly. These infants are, in fact, one of approximately 780 mountain gorillas left in the world, a species that is critically endangered.

It is again time to check on a young gorilla, given the name of SACOLA by Patrick Bergin of the African Wildlife Foundation, a coalition member of IGCP. SACOLA was named after the acronym for the Sabyinyo Community Livelihoods Association, a community association that was developed to use the revenue from a luxury lodge, Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, for community conservation and development projects. Every citizen over the age of 18 in Nyange and Kinigi Sectors are members of SACOLA, which is over 50,000 people.

But back to the now four-year-old mountain gorilla named SACOLA. While I couldn't go myself and pay her a visit, I did ask someone who knows her well how she has been over the last year.

Emmanuel Harerimana is a guide at Volcanoes National Park and spends about five days a week visiting the different mountain gorilla groups with tourists. He also is a member of the SACOLA association and started his guiding career as a community guide at the Kinigi Cultural Center and Community Walk. Emmanuel tells me that SACOLA has had a great year with no major health issues, and this year, unlike last year, did not get caught in any snares. The news on SACOLA is that she has a younger sibling that will be named this year. SACOLA's sibling is thought to be a female and is now just a year old, having been born on June 5, 2011.

SACOLA's younger sibling, a female born on June 5, 2011, will be named at the 8th Annual Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony held on Saturday, June 16, 2012. Photo courtesy of RDB.

SACOLA's younger sibling, a female born on June 5, 2011, will be named at the 8th Annual Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony held on Saturday, June 16, 2012. Photo courtesy of RDB.

Also, during a routine health check by the Gorilla Doctors, it was noted that an additional female, possibly from an unhabituated group had joined the Sabyinyo family. You can check out the photos from this health check-up on the Gorilla Doctor's Facebook page.

In the past year, SACOLA the association has been doing great things as well. The SACOLA dancers now offer visitors a lively start to their trekking day by dancing each morning at park headquarters. And recently, one hundred cows were distributed to the most vulnerable of the community.

In this recent video posted by TIME, you will get a glimpse of the SACOLA dancers, Emmanuel, the Sabyinyo group of mountain gorillas, and yes, even SACOLA's young sibling that will receive a name this Saturday riding on her mother Kampangaís back. Enjoy!

About the Author

Anna Behm Masozera is the Director of the International Gorilla Conservation Programme since 2013. Originally from Iowa in the United States, she has called the hills and volcanoes of the Greater Virunga region home for many years, previously serving as Communications Officer for the coalition organization.