Rwanda lion pride set free

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The Rwanda Development Board’s (RDB) Tourism and Conservation Department has confirmed that seven lions relocated from South Africa to Akagera National Park, yesterday left their monitoring enclosur

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The Rwanda Development Board’s (RDB) Tourism and Conservation Department has confirmed that seven lions relocated from South Africa to Akagera National Park, yesterday left their monitoring enclosure after vets confirmed that they were ready to start roaming the park.

All seven were fitted with radio collars to allow the park management to establish their position at a moment’s notice.

Sarah Hall, Akagera’s Marketing Manager, sent in a report, besides the picture shown, narrating the experience when the seven left their holding boma and made the park their own.

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Earlier today, the gates of the quarantine boma were opened to allow the lions to exit their temporary enclosure. A waterbuck carcass was placed outside the gates to encourage them to step out into their new home. The first female poked her nose out of the gates within a few minutes, closely followed by three other females, who looked around curiously for a while, unconvinced about their new found freedom, before the lure of the carcass proved too great. The youngest lioness was last of the females to emerge and nervously kept her distance in nearby bushes. The two males were much more cautious and did not emerge from the boma while the park and press vehicles were there. 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. The time in quarantine has allowed the lions to adjust to their new surroundings, bond with each other, and recover from what was likely the longest wild lion translocation in conservation history, taking over 45 hours. The lions have come from different prides; among the females are a 10 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. The lions have been fed every two-to-three days, mainly on impala carcasses, and will now hunt for their own food.

All seven animals are fitted with satellite collars, which will allow the park management to track their movements following their release, 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, for ease of reference for the park management. The Bralirwa brand, Turbo King, generously supported the translocation which earned them the privilege of naming the two males. Other key donors and stakeholders have been given the honor of naming the female lions, to be announced in the coming days. African Parks and the Rwanda Development Board are very grateful to our sponsors for their kind contribution to this conservation milestone for Rwanda.

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Several regular contributors from Rwanda, when requesting them for feedback, were enthusiastic about the prospect of their clients now once more having the chance to see the lion king in Rwanda. They all expressed their gratitude to the South African authorities for approving the relocation after some conservationists scuttled an almost done deal with Kenya last year amid allegations that Rwanda was not able to ensure the safety of the lions.

African Parks, which manages Akagera under a joint venture agreement with RDB, had, however, strengthened the fence and made it “lion proof,” and the fitting of collars also now allows to see if any of the seven comes close to the park boundary.

Located in the east of Rwanda on the border with Tanzania, Akagera is approximately 112,000 hectares in size. A river of the same name on its eastern boundary feeds into a labyrinth of lakes that make up the eastern boundary of the park. Rolling grassland and wooded hills make up the western boundary. The park is home to a huge diversity of animal and birdlife, and boasts spectacular scenery.

Akagera is managed through a public-private partnership between the Rwanda Development Board and African Parks, a non-profit organization that takes on responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks and protected areas in partnership with governments and local communities. African Parks manages ten national parks and protected areas in seven countries – Rwanda, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Chad, Malawi, and Zambia.

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