Lions have been wiped out from Rwanda in a horrific genocide that took place 15 years ago, in 1994. But now, a conservation group called African Park is set to reintroduce seven (7) lions in the area, in hope that the animals can survive, thrive and colonize the area once more.
The seven (7) fearless felines, two (2) males and five (5) females, will be taken from South Africa and embarked on a 26 hour road trip before being set free in Akagera National Park, Rwanda. They will travel both by truck and plane, and are expected to reach their new home sometime tomorrow (June 30).
Peter Fearnhead, African Park’s chief executive, gave a statement on the group’s website, saying that “The return of lions to Akagera is a conservation milestone for the park and the country. Restoring national parks to their former biodiversity state is a key deliverable of the African Parks conservation model”.
He went on to add that he and the rest of the organization, as well as their reliable Government partner, the Rwandan Development Board, are all very happy that they have finally been able to bring back such an important, key species to the beautiful environment that is Akagera National Park.
As a measure of protection, as well as a tool for gathering data, the lions will be fitted with satellite collars that are expected to last for roughly two (2) years. Before being released into the wild, they will also have to live in a quarantine area for two (2) weeks after arriving.
On top of bringing the ecosystem back to its former glory, Yamina Karitanyi, Rwanda senior tourism officer, also has high hopes that reintroducing lions will help boost tourism, and as a direct result the local economy and help reduce the levels of poverty in the area.
The official story behind the genocide is that lions were killed (poisoned) as well as driven out of their homes by Tutsi cattle herders who were looking for sanctuary in an attempt to escape the massacres carried out by their rivals, the Hutu tribesmen. The African Parks were left unmanaged at the time, so there was no one to protect the giant felines from a fate they did not deserve.
Recent studies have shown that there are just 21.000 living lions that can be found in Africa today. Starting with 1950, the lion population has been on a constant decline, to the point where Africa only has half the number of royal felines that it once proudly hosted.
The situation has gotten to be so severe that the International Union for Conservation of Nature moved the lion on the “red list” of endangered species earlier this month.
Image Source: funoi.com