Akagera Park readies for arrival of lions

Akagera Park Management will soon restock the park with lions after they were wiped out by poachers in the recent past.

Akagera Park Management will soon restock the park with lions after they were wiped out by poachers in the recent past.

The eight animals, a donation from Kenya, will be relocated to the Savannah Game Park, home to growing populations of elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, Zebras and leopards.

Jes Gruner, the Manager of Akagera Park, the largest in the country, told The New Times on Sunday that the lions will be brought in from Kenya next month.

Gruner further said currently Akagera has only three of the big five; elephants, buffaloes and leopards.

“Arrangements to reintroduce the lions are already finalised,” Gruner said.

He noted that the lion was an important predator in the complex ecosystem.

“Like it or not, predators are a necessary and beneficial part of natural systems. If we remove them from the picture, there are consequences. The lion will provide ecological stability by regulating the impacts of grazing and browsing animals, thus ensuring the overall productivity of the habitat.”

He said the Akagera National Park is currently enjoying resurgence under the management of African Parks Network.

“There is definitely a plan to  restock some identified species... The idea is to boost the park’s tourism potential, and this will increase Rwanda’s competitiveness in the East African region.”

Gruner dismissed public fears that the lions would be dangerous to neighbouring communities, noting that the electric fence built around the park would continue to lessen human-wildlife conflict.

“The park is among the country’s major tourist destinations…reintroduction of lions will attract more tourists hence increase revenue. With the electric fence there shouldn’t be any fears.”

The Rwf2.7bn fence of 110 kilometers and 1.8m height is expected to last 40 years.

Meanwhile, local leaders in the districts neighbouring the park, said the introduction of the lion would increase their revenues as well.

John Mugabo, the Mayor of Kayonza District, said lions would bring money to businesspersons in the areas.

 “We don’t get money from the park directly, but we indirectly benefit from tourists. They buy a lot of items on their way to and from the park. In some cases, they spend time in our hotels before heading to the park. So, with introduction of the lions, we will see more tourists and more money coming our way,” he said.