After 26 days locked up in a specially constructed 1,000-sqm perimeter in Rwanda’s Akagera National Park, lions have been safely released into the wilderness of the park.
At the beginning of this month, Rwanda 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 together with the Rwanda Development Board relocated lions from South Africa and re-introduced the species into Akagera National Park in Eastern Rwanda.
African parks is a non-profit organisation that takes total responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments and local communities in Africa.
On arrival at the park in Rwanda, the lions were placed in a specially constructed boma in the north of the park. Split into two separate enclosures, the perimeter features a three-metre high, chain-linked electrified fence.
A water reserve was constructed within the boma and the lions were fed game meat while in the enclosure.
The park authorities on Sunday let the big cats free in order to allow them adapt life to the wildness where they can now hunt prey for themselves.
"We have closely monitored them for close to a month while in enclosures but now we have released them to hone their hunting skills and boost ecosystem in the park," Jes Gruner, the Akagera National Park Manager told reporters on Sunday.
He noted that they are now used to Rwanda climate hence they should be free from controlled enclosures and hunt for their own food in one of Africa’s most diverse savanna parks.
Gruner stated that tourists will be able to see the lions in the park in Rwanda for the first time in 21 years; however, it would solely depend on where the animal will be located at the time of visit.
Available information indicates that the park once had about 230 lions but, after the 1994 Genocide, returnees encroached on the park pushing the lions out and killing others.
The park was reduced from 2,500 to 1,200 square kilometers until when government intervened to reclaim some parts.
Akagera National Park is the country’s famous Savanna animal sanctuary with a wide- range of game that include buffalos, elephants, zebras, giraffes, hippos, and antelopes, among others.
Last year Rwanda’s tourism industry registered revenue receipts worth 304.9 million U.S. dollars (about Rwf218 billion). The post genocide nation hosted a total number of about 1.22 million visitors in 2014.
Leisure has been a major driver of Rwanda’s tourism industry. Currently, the country is focusing on Meetings Incentives Conference and Exhibitions/Events (MICE) tourism, capitalizing on safety, developed infrastructure, accessibility and new entrants in the hotel industry such as the Marriott, Radisson Blu, Radisson by Park Inn, Sheraton, Golden Tulip, Kempisnki and Zinc, amongst others.