The tourism scene in Rwanda is expected to become even more vibrant with the anticipated return of lions at the country’s Akagera National Park. African Parks and The Rwanda Development Board announced today that the big cats are expected to arrive at the park in the first week of July 2015, marking a historic return after a fifteen years absence.
The Chief Tourism Officer Ambassador Yamina Karitanyi hailed the return of the lions and noted that this was a great stride in enhancing Rwanda’s leisure and adventure tourism which has been dominated by Gorilla trekking.
“We also expect that the arrival of the lions will spur domestic tourism to higher levels as more Rwandan citizens and resident foreigners seek to view the cats in their natural habitat,” she added.
The group of lions destined for Akagera includes five females that have been donated by &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve and two males that have been donated by Tembe Elephant Reserve, an Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife protected area. Located in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal, both are relatively small, confined reserves where it is necessary to occasionally remove surplus lions.
Ambassador Karitanyi pointed out that Akagera National Park stood out as a strong testimony of success in public- private partnership rehabilitation of the park between the Rwanda Development Board and African Parks. “The lion translocation will encourage the natural balance of the ecosystem and enhance the tourism product to further contribute to Rwanda’s status as an all-in-one safari destination,” she explained.
“The return of lions to Akagera is a conservation milestone for the park and the country,” said Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks, which manages the Akagera National Park. “Restoring national parks to their former biodiversity state is a key deliverable of the African Parks conservation model and we, in conjunction with our Government partner, the Rwandan Development Board, are delighted to have been able to re-introduce one of the charismatic species to this beautiful national park”.
During the translocation, the lions will remain tranquilized and will be accompanied by a veterinary team.
Fearnhead added that the Akagera National Park has already been prepared for the arrival of the lions. Once in the park, they will be placed in a specially-erected, 1,000m² boma in the north of the park. Split into two separate enclosures, the perimeter features a three-metre high, chain-linked electrified fence. A water reserve has been constructed within the boma and the lions will be fed game meat while in the enclosure. They will be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days, during which they will be continually monitored, before being released into the wilderness of the park.