Off the Beaten Path: Over 200 hippos stray beyond Akagera National Park

By Esther Muhozi
On 29 December 2023 at 03:58

The management of Akagera National Park has revealed that over 200 hippos have established habitats beyond the park boundaries, particularly in swamps and man-made ponds close to local communities. In collaboration with the Government of Rwanda, efforts are underway to address the challenges posed by these hippos to the safety of residents and the protection of their crops.

Concerns have been raised by inhabitants of Nyagatare, Gatsibo, and Kayonza districts, reporting instances where hippos have been grazing and damaging their crops. Karinganire Jean Paul, the Deputy Tourism and Marketing Manager in Akagera National Park, stated that more than 200 hippos are currently residing outside the park, with many of them traversing River Akagera.

Karinganire explained, "Once outside the park, the responsibility extends to various stakeholders, including us. We are actively collaborating with the government and security forces to safeguard the well-being of the local population. Our strategy involves digging one-meter-deep trenches near their habitats, as hippos are deterred from crossing them.

Additionally, we are identifying suitable locations for artificial ponds near the communities, aiming to prevent potential conflicts."

He emphasized the urgency of finding a solution in cooperation with the government, acknowledging the serious impact on the local population.

"These hippos pose a significant threat by consuming and damaging people’s crops, causing harm to individuals. We are actively seeking a sustainable solution.

A dedicated fund has been established, contributing 5% of the Park’s income to address animal-related damages. However, it proves insufficient to understand the origins of these more than 200 hippos encroaching on the community," explained Karinganire.

Despite the existence of a fund to compensate for animal damages, residents have expressed dissatisfaction, citing delays and inadequate compensation compared to the extent of the damages incurred by the animals.