Rwandans could, effective next week, start seeing lions in person at their backyard after seven are flown in from South African.
African Parks, in partnership with Rwanda Development Board (RDB), will on Monday, translocate seven lions from South Africa to re-introduce the species in Akagera National Park.
Located in the Eastern Province, Akagera park is managed by African Parks, as a public private partnership with RDB.
In a statement, RDB said the lions include five females that were donated by andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve and two males 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 move surplus lions to avoid overpopulation.
“In the prime of their lives, the lions have been selected based on future reproductive potential and their ability to contribute to social cohesion – young adults, sub-adult females, young adult males with different genetics – and associations such as adult female with sub-adult female and adult male coalitions,” reads part of the statement.
The lions have already been captured and are being held in bomas on Phinda and on Tembe.
“On 29 June they will be tranquilised, placed in individual slatted, pen-crates and loaded onto trucks for their journey to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. On arrival in Akagera National Park, the lions will be placed in a specially constructed 1,000 square metre boma in the north of the park.
“They will all be fitted with satellite collars, which will enable the Akagera National Park management team to monitor their movements and reduce the risk of the lions entering community areas. As an additional precautionary measure, the park fence has been predator-proofed.”
On arrival in Akagera National Park, the lions will be placed in a specially constructed 1,000 square metre boma in the north of the park.
Split into two separate enclosures, the perimetre features a three-metre high chain-linked electric 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 at least 14 days, during which they will be continually monitored, before being released into the wilderness of the park.
“The return of lions to Akagera is a conservation milestone for the park and the country,” said African Parks chief executive Peter Fearnhead.
“Restoring national parks to their former biodiversity state is a key deliverable of the African Parks conservation model and we, in conjunction with our partner, the RDB, are delighted to have been able to re-introduce one of the most charismatic species to this beautiful national park.”
Amb. Yamina Karitanyi, the chief tourism officer at RDB, described the development as a breakthrough in the rehabilitation of the park under the public private partnership between the Rwanda Development Board and African Parks.
“The return of lions will encourage the natural balance of the ecosystem. Rwandans and visitors will now have the chance to see one of Africa’s ‘Big Five’ (animals) in one of the continent’s most diverse national parks, cementing Rwanda’s status as conservation focused, all-in-one safari destination,” she is quoted as saying.