Rwanda is an academy and founding member of the International Council of Tourism Partners (ICTP). On Sunday ICTP president Geoffrey Lipman was honored to be invited by the Rwanda Development board to be one of the namers for new born baby gorillas.
Rwanda is the only country in the ‘gorilla triangle’ of the Virunga mountains, which it shares with Uganda and Congo DR, to dedicate an entirel festival to the primates, and while gorillas in Uganda are also named by the wardens and the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) staff, only in Rwanda has the naming been turned into an annual celebration of conservation.
Geoffrey Lipman eyewitness report: “This weekend I had the opportunity thanks to Rwanda, a founder member of ICTP, to enjoy one of the tourism opportunities of a lifetime. I went to Kigali to take part in the annual gorilla naming ceremony - Kwita Izina, Along with 20,000 local people including the Prime Minister, 20 invited guests each got to name a young Gorilla in a joyful celebration of wildlife, tourism and conservation. But it was more than that it was a moving demonstration of national pride and as such it was a testament to Rwanda itself and the incredible path of nation building and trade development that President Kagame has undertaken, in which Tourism has a central role to play, with the magnificent Gorilla’s as a global icon.
It was a briliantly organized event in the foothills close to where the Gorilla families roam and presided over by Rica Rwigamba, the dynamic Head of Rwanda’s Tourism and Development Board Head. Namers included conservation champions from as far afield as Japan, the Head of Google Africa, regional tourism leaders and a crowd pleasing 7 year old who had won the honour in a gorilla drawing competition for local schoolkids.
Dressed in local costume, I had the honour of the last “naming” and the opportunity to address the crowd on behalf of the guests and the friends of conservation and tourism around the world. My Gorilla or should I say ICTP’s is a young 12 month old male called Ijabo which means “Dignity” in the Rwanda language and is very symbolic of the rebirth of Rwanda itself and of the ways in which it’s proud people are handling their tourism, conservation and international positioning. Symbolically Ijabo had very nearly died at birth, but had been saved by the brilliance of the veterinarians and is now leading a happy and healthy life
Another symbolic reference i touched on, was the fact that my journey had started in China, which will be a driver of global tourism and African economic development - it would end in Brazil for the Rio+20 Earth summit to launch a new book Green Growth & Travelism: Letters from Leaders showing ways in which our sector can help in the transformation to a more sustainable, sharing and caring world. The stop in Rwanda for the Kwita Izina was a perfect link between the journey’s starting and finishing point.
It was one of the most moving things I have ever done and i would urge anyone looking for a special tourism experience to visit Rwanda and its magnificent Gorilla’s. I will certainly be returning to look for Ijabo as he grows and prospers.”