Oh baby! Tourists in for a lion of a treat at Akagera National Park

When Rwanda some three years ago floated the idea to relocate lions to the Akagera National Park after years without any of them seen, critics in particular from among some Kenyan conservationists were swift to argue that the country was ill prepared and the park not ready for such a translocation, shooting down plans between Kenya Wildlife Service and the Rwanda Development Board in flames.

Undeterred by such attempts to stop the project, the Rwanda Development Board went ahead and sought alternatives, which were last year found when two private South African game reserves, Phinda and Tembe Elephant Park in Kwa Zulu Natal, agreed to send five females and two males to Rwanda, where African Parks is managing Akagera under a joint venture with the Rwanda Development Board.

The relocation went extremely well and a site visit to Akagera last year in September provided more than enough evidence that African Parks had done what was needed to keep the lions inside the park boundaries. The fences had been strengthened, separating the park from the neighboring farms and ranches, and to date, over a year since the relocation, not one report has emerged of either lions or other game breaking through the fence.

Now news has come in from Akagera that one of the lionesses has given birth to three cubs and that apparently at least two more are in the family way as well, giving the lion population a boost and providing exciting new sightings for ever more visitors streaming into the park. Local Rwandans are now in the majority of visitors, giving credibility to RDB’s efforts to promote domestic travel.

Akagera is one of now four national parks in Rwanda, together with Nyungwe Forest, Volcanoes – the gorilla park, and Gishwati Forest which was made a park by an act of parliament in September last year.