African Parks, in partnership with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), has translocated seven lions from South Africa to re-introduce the species into Akagera National Park in Rwanda. The re-introduction of lions to Rwanda is a ground-breaking conservation effort for both the park and the country.
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 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. On 29 June they were tranquilised, placed in individual slatted, pen-crates and loaded onto trucks for their journey to OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. They were all fitted with satellite collars, which enabled 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 was predator-proofed.
On arrival at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg the seven lions were immediately loaded onto a charter flight and flown to the capital of Rwanda, Kigali, from where they were transported by road to Akagera National Park. The entire journey took approximately 36 hours. They were accompanied and continually monitored by a veterinary team with experience in translocations.
On arrival in Akagera National Park, they were placed in a specially constructed 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.
“The return of lions to Akagera is a conservation milestone for the park and the country,” said Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks. “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 Rwanda Development Board, are delighted to have been able to re-introduce one of the most charismatic species to this beautiful national park.”
Ambassador Yamina Karitanyi, the Chief Tourism Officer at RDB said, “It is a breakthrough in the rehabilitation of the park under the public-private partnership between RDB 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.”
The return of the lions to the country was sponsored by Turbo King, from the Bralirwa portfolio.
Adapted from a press release by Rwanda Development Board.