Rwanda has imported seven lions from South Africa in a bid to boost the tourism industry which is the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner.
African Parks, the source of the giant cats, together with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), will relocate them and re-introduce the species into Akagera National Park in eastern Rwanda.
Speaking to newsmen on Saturday, Yamina Karitanyi, chief tourism Officer at the RDB said the move aims at boosting the tourism sector and encourage the natural balance of the ecosystem in Akagera Park.
“It is a breakthrough in the rehabilitation of the park under the public private partnership between the RDB and African Parks.
“Visitors to the park will now have a 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 said.
According to RDB, the group of lions includes five females and two males donated by Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve and Tembe Elephant Reserve respectively.
The lions will arrive in Rwanda on June 30. They have been selected based on future reproductive potential, among other factors.
They will all be fitted with satellite collars, which would enable the Akagera 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.
RDB said the lions would be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days during which they would be continually monitored before being released into the wilderness of the park.
Available information indicates that the park once had about 230 lions. After the 1994 Genocide, returnees encroached on the park pushing the lions out and killing others.
Akagera National Park is Rwanda’s famous Savanna animal sanctuary with a wide-range of animals that include buffalos, elephants, zebras, giraffes, hippos, and antelopes.