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World Environment Day (WED) Legacy Gorilla Diaries


18 June 2011 (Sat)
12:00 -





Last year, the eyes of the world were on Rwanda as it hosted World Environment Day (WED). As part of the event, the WED Global Community was given three wild baby gorillas to name.

In Rwandan culture, giving names to human babies, in a ceremonial style, is a long standing tradition. And the people of Rwanda also bestow this tradition on the mountain gorillas, a testament to their beloved status. On the practical side, names also ease the identification of individuals in habituated groups which helps with research, medical care and interest from gorilla enthusiasts.

Each June in Volcanoes National Park, thousands of people from every walk of life come together to take part in the Kwita Izina name giving ceremony. On World Environment Day 2010, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, Goodwill Ambassador Don Cheadle and Climate Hero Luo Hong each gave name to one of the baby gorillas.

To select the names, WED hosted an on-line competition with a people’s and kid’s choice category. Zoya, meaning “light” in many languages, and Waka Waka, meaning “spirited” and “to lift up” in Swahili were chosen respectively. The final name, Legacy, was selected by UNEP to mark the launch of the WED Legacy Project in which $10 was contributed for every environmental activity registered, resulting in close to $100,000 for gorilla protection in the host country.

In this 3-part diary, we trek to the mountain gorillas’ jungle home to introduce you to these special babies. On Friday June 20, two weeks after our shoot, a set of twins was born to Zoya’s family, the Susa Group. Though twins are extremely unusual, this is the second set born to this family and the third set born in the Volcanoes National Park in the last three years. This trans-boundary collaboration between Rwanda, Uganda, and Congo is a true success story as evidenced by the 26% increase in the mountain gorilla population in the last 7 years.

This June 18, 22 babies will be named at the ceremony which will focus on raising global awareness of sustainable community development as a tool for mountain gorilla conservation. As Rwanda gears up for the next Kwita Izina, we urge you learn more about the plight of these amazing creatures.

Baby Legacy from UNEP on Vimeo.

Baby Waka Waka from UNEP on Vimeo.

Baby Zoya from UNEP on Vimeo.

For more on Kwita Izina 2011:

For more from Ian Redmond OBE
Ambassador, UNEP Convention on Migratory Species
GRASP Envoy, UNEP/UNESCO Great Ape Survival Partnership
Chairman, Ape Alliance


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