The gates of the quarantine Boma were opened, yesterday; the seven which were introduced into Akagera National Park nearly a month ago are now strolling outside their temporary enclosure.
VIDEO: The lions' journey from South Africa to Rwanda. The New Times/YouTube
By mid afternoon, the first lioness stepped out of the 1000sq meter perimeter Boma and a waterbuck corpse was placed outside the gates to encourage them move out of the enclosure to explore their new home.
The Big cats had not been fed for the last two days, a deliberate move to make the operation much easier for the animals to move out once the gate of the Boma was finally opened, according to Jes Gruner, the park Manager.
The first female to poke her nose out of the gates, was closely followed by three other females, who looked around curiously, unconvinced about their new found freedom, before feasting on the carcass.
The youngest lioness was last of the females to emerge-with seemingly mixed feeling of excitement and timid. She nervously kept her distance in nearby bushes.
However, the two males were much more cautious and did not emerge from the boma while the park and press vehicles were parked.
“Of course, this is yet another milestone, the Lions are now free...The time in quarantine has allowed the lions to adjust to their new surroundings, bond with each other, since all did not come from a single home in South Africa.
“For the next two years, the lions will be wearing the Collars as we will continue to monitor them. We also hope the mating process won’t take longer, in a year’s time, we should be having first cubs in Akagera park,” said Gruner.
The Lions are expected to wander around the Boma for the next three days or so, before they can move farther to the northern part of Akagera park- a locality that harbors majority of Impalas, Topi Antelopes, and zebras among other wild animals which are commonly a food for the lions.
Previously, the lions have been fed every two-to-three days while staying in the Boma, mainly on impala carcasses, and now, the Kings and queens of the jungle will hunt for their own food.
The five females from &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve and two males from Tembe Elephant Park, both in South Africa, were brought to Rwanda at the end of June in a ground-breaking conservation effort for the country.
From Kwazulu Natal province of South Africa to Akagera national Park, the big cats, made likely the longest wild lion translocation in conservation history, taking over 45 hours.
These are the first lions to roam Akagera National Park, and Rwanda, for almost 15 years.
Tourists now have the opportunity to see the lions in the wilderness of Akagera, as previously viewing was restricted to park personnel who had been monitoring the lions in the boma.
A statement from Rwanda Development Board indicated that; among the females are a ten-year-old mother and her one-year-old daughter, a single five-year-old female and two three-year-old sisters.
The males are three and four years old and are unrelated.
All seven lions are fitted with satellite collars, which will allow the park management to track their movements, and see whether they stay together as a pride or split up as they explore their new surroundings.
The seven lions will be given names by selected donors who supported the translocation process, including Bralirwa brand Turbo King, which will name the two male lions.
Turbo King covered the lion’s charter flight from South Africa to Rwanda.
“We are proud of the contribution we had towards Rwanda’s conservation efforts and we hope to do much more, “said Julius Kayoboke, Bralirwa’s Marketing Director.
The names of the lions will be announced in the near future.