Arsenal stars Aubameyang, Bellerin & Leno name baby gorillas in Rwandan ceremony to promote conservation efforts

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Arsenal Kwita Izina gorilla naming ceremony
Getty/Visit Rwanda
The Gunners trio spoke about their passion for conserving nature after taking part in the annual Kwita Izina ceremony

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Hector Bellerin and Bernd Leno have taken part in a special gorilla naming ceremony on World Gorilla Day to raise awareness of the endangered species.

The Rwandan ceremony of Kwita Izina is modelled on centuries-old traditions in which Rwandans name their children in the presence of family and friends, and naming each gorilla helps park rangers and researchers monitor families in their conservation efforts.

World-famous naturalist Sir David Attenborough, actor Natalie Portman and model Naomi Campbell are among the celebrities to have taken part in the ceremony in recent years, as well as Arsenal legends Tony Adams, Alex Scott and Lauren as part of the club’s partnership with Visit Rwanda.

Article continues below

The Gunners’ current stars certainly didn’t disappoint with their choice of names.

Aubameyang named a 14-month-old baby gorilla Igitego, meaning ‘Goal’. Leno chose Myugariro, meaning ‘Defender’ for a 12-month-old, while Bellerin named an 11-month-old Iriza, meaning ‘First Born’.

"It's an honour for me to name a baby gorilla," Aubameyang said. "We have to work as a team to reach new goals in our conservation journey to protect them.

"I think I was lucky because since I was a little kid, I have had the chance to travel all around the world because of my father. I saw a lot of kinds of nature everywhere.

"As you know in my country, the panther is the animal. It represents me a lot because I'm proud of being African. We have beautiful nature so we have to take care of it."

"It's a privilege for me to name little baby Iriza, which means 'first born',” Bellerin added.

“When you're the first born in your family, you feel a sense of responsibility, and it's our responsibility to look after our wildlife."

Conservation efforts such as these have begun to make a difference for gorillas. In November 2018, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) changed their status from Critically Endangered to Endangered, but there is more work ahead.

The Kwita Izina ceremony also serves as an opportunity to recognise the good work done by the rangers, researchers and trackers who work to protect the species, and the communities who live around Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.