This was a naming day with a difference. More than 10,000 people had gathered to see these African infants being welcomed into the world. The president of Rwanda, ex-Prime Minister of Haiti, Howard Buffett (son of the billionaire Warren Buffet) and numerous international celebrities had gathered in a tent at the base of Volcanoes National Park to celebrate the birth of 19 baby gorillas.
The gorillas didn’t join the party as they prefer the jungle to the spotlight, but this didn’t stop the Rwandese people from celebrating the arrival of their latest inhabitants. Some of the locals had travelled for days to make sure they were there to see each gorilla being welcomed to the world.
In true African tradition the Kwita Izina [naming day] ceremony started five hours late. But this didn’t dampen the spirit of the crowd who were standing outside the VIP area in the sweltering heat. When the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame arrived to a rockstar reception he chose to walk straight towards his people rather than to the waiting dignitaries.
But as popular as the president is it was clear who was the star of the show, as a gigantic silverback gorilla that was constructed out of bamboo formed the roof of the stage and was the focal point for proceedings.
The Rwandan Development Board named 19 gorillas who were celebrating their first birthday. With infanticide and other causes being taken into consideration, by the time a baby gorilla reaches the one year mark, or thereabouts they can usually assure that the baby gorilla has been accepted by the group.
When we arrived at the VIP tent we were given a programme that featured the photographs of all the gorillas who were about to be named and were given the chance to fill in their name once they’d been announced.