In Rwanda, ancient custom dictates that a celebration is thrown whenever a baby is named. But in 2003, the country adopted a twist on this tradition and started doing the same for baby gorillas.
Named Kwita Izina, the annual party honors all the newborn gorillas that conservationists in Rwanda have tracked over the last year. Each June, those babies are publicly celebrated and officially named.
Surprisingly, tens of thousands people show up to honor these animals in a showstopping affair that's attended by international celebrities and heads of state.
Mountain gorillas are among the most endangered species on the planet, with fewer than 900 left in the African forests. But since Rwanda began honoring these creatures with naming celebrations, the country claims its gorilla population has increased by 26 percent. Some speculate that's because Kwita Izina raises awareness of the gorillas' endangerment issues, while others say it makes the country more intolerant of poachers.
Whatever the reason for the increase, Rwanda has 12 new lives to celebrate at this year's party, some of which are featured in the following pictures.
What would you name these little faces? Let us know in the Comments.
[Source: Rwanda Development Board]
Photo: Rwanda Development Board