The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland, was granted the honour of naming a baby gorilla during the Kwita Izina Rwandan ceremony.
Kwita Izina, which means ‘to give a name’, has been running for 14 years. This year’s event was held in Kinigi near Rwanda’s borders with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda.
The event's main goal is to bring national and international attention to the importance of protecting mountain gorillas.
Although the main threat to gorillas in this region is poaching, climate change is also a huge threat to the great apes.
Changes in rainfall patterns and temperatures can affect the gorillas' food supply, cause thermal stress, increase the chances of losing habitat to forest fires, and can enable the emergence of new diseases from which the gorillas have little or no immunity.
Gorilla naming ceremony
During the ceremony, dignitaries, celebrities and leaders in conservation name infant mountain gorillas.
Scotland named her gorilla Nazarian meaning ‘the one who loves and initiates peace’, before telling attendees that she hoped Nazarian would be the “peaceful one who brings love and harmony to the gorilla community”.
She went on to congratulate Rwanda on its “fantastic” conservation efforts and for hosting next year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Kigali.
Model Naomi Campbell, ex-Arsenal Footballer Tony Adams, former Manchester United manager, Louis van Gaal, and Commonwealth Games Federation President, Louise Martin, were also on hand to name some of the 25 infant gorillas.
Since inception of Kwita Izina, the gorilla population in the north’s Volcanoes National Park and Virunga Mountains has increased by 26.3%.
The ceremony does not feature actual gorillas but sees dancing, music and speeches – including that of Rwanda President Paul Kagame who named twin gorillas in the ceremony’s early years.
Kagame jokingly told the crowd that the twins are “doing well”, that he has “paid their school fees” and often chats with them on Whatsapp as “the wifi in the area is very good”.
Climate change agenda top-of-mind
The Secretary-General took the opportunity to speak extensively about the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub during her trip to Rwanda.
The programme is designed to help member countries untangle red tape around climate financing, and make successful applications to the international funds that address the effects of climate change in their country.
She also highlighted the value of the ‘Youth Entrepreneurship for the Green and Blue Economy’ toolkit, which provides practical advice to help governments respond to opportunities and challenges facing the environment, young people and the economy.
Access the Commonwealth Youth Entrepreneurship for the Green and Blue Economy toolkit here.