Last week, seven lions began a 36 hour journey from South Africa. Now, the lions are back in Rwanda. More precisely, in Akagera National Park.
Rwanda’s lions were nonexistent prior to this. During the 1944 genocide that took place in the country, many people took refuge in the park. They were eventually forced to drive out, or actually kill, the lions, in attempts to protect their livestock.
Stretching for about 112 thousand hectare, the park is one of Rwanda’s foremost tourist attractions, having had 28 thousand visitors only in 2014. Yamina Karitanyi, the head of tourism at the Rwanda Development Board believes that this is a breakthrough in the rehabilitation process of the park and that it will help reestablish “the natural balance in the ecosystem.”
The relocation selected lions from different areas in the KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa, where the lion population was large enough that there was a need to remove surplus animals. But, judging by a statement from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, this doesn’t happen too often.
ICUN warned that the number of cats in eastern Africa, usually the region where the lion reigns, has been in rapid decline due to traditional practices in African medicine. The felines are hunted for their bones and other body parts which constitute key ingredients in several drugs, giving them a high value on the market.
Still, it could be worse. In western Africa, the ICUN lists the population of lions as “critically endangered” due to over-hunting not only of the lions, but of their pray also, leaving them with nothing to feed on.
In Akagera, the lions will have a wide variety of pray to choose from on the menu: multiple antelope species, buffaloes, giraffes, and zebras. Still, if the cats are feeling particularly adventurous, they can restate their dominance over all the other animals by hunting leopards, or elephants; a sight not uncommon in Africa.
In spite of all this, or maybe because of it, the humans of Rwanda have shown concern as to their and their livestock’s safety. The authorities, however, say that they have nothing to fear, for the park is surrounded by a big fence and the lions will be equipped with satellite collars, so that they can be easily tracked.
The question now remains: will the lions survive and will they become kings once more?
Image source: newsweek.com