Editorial: A warm welcome to the new members of Akagera park!

Rwanda is five rhinos richer following the arrival in the wee hours of Monday morning of Jasiri, Jasmina, Manny, Olmoti and Mandela.

By press time, the black rhinos – originally from Safari Park Dvůr Králové in Czech Republic, Flamingo Land in United Kingdom, and Ree Park Safari in Denmark – were due to touch down at Kigali International Airport at 2:45a.m completing a 7-hour flight from the Czech Republic.

They were then expected to be transferred east of the country to the Akagera National Park, marking the completion of the world’s largest ever translocation of rhinos from Europe to Africa.

The translocation of the rhinos, part of a highly endangered subspecies, is the result of what has been described as “unique collaboration between the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), the Government of Rwanda and conservation NGO African Parks.

The animals arrive at their new home in Akagera about 10 years after the Government of Rwanda undertook a serious effort to restore the park back to its glory days, which has since seen the reintroduction of lions and rhinos to the savannah natural habitat.

It is another vote of confidence in Rwanda’s conservation efforts, with Přemysl Rabas, Director of Safari Park Dvůr Králové, saying they believed “these rhinos will adapt well to their new environment in Rwanda.”

Oficials said the new members of the park will initially be kept in bomas, before being moved to larger enclosures in a specially protected area, and then released into the wild north of national park.

With fewer than 5,000 wild black rhinos estimated to be in Africa and their future severely threatened, the Akagera National Park is seen as one of the safest natural habitats of the rhinoceros population – and indeed other endangered species – and thus a major player in global conservation efforts.

Indeed there is no doubt that, in Akagera, the new rhinos will find a fitting, natural and happy home.

Yet this translocation could not have been possible without the indispensable role of the communities around the Akagera National Park. By stopping poaching and actively fighting the old illegal practice, residents have allowed the park and its wildlife populations to thrive and multiply.

In a way, this change in attitude – in regards to both the Akagera and the three other national parks in the country – is a result of a pro-people tourism policy, which earmarks 10 per cent of tourism proceeds to be ploughed back into the communities surrounding the parks.

With the latest development we can only expect the tourism sector, a top foreign exchange earner for the country, to grow from strength to strength.

Congratulations to all those involved!



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