Lions return to Rwanda

Photo taken by Jennifer Johnson on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.
Rwanda is once again home to regal lions, like this one that Jennifer Johnson  caught on camera while on an Ujuzi safari to Tanzania.

Great news from Rwanda: Lions are returning to the country today after a nearly two-decade absence!

I’ve been delighted to watch all the work that Rwanda has put into preserving and restoring its natural resources in the past years. The country’s mountain gorillas, once under threat from poaching, are now a source of national pride. Every September, the great apes are honored with a national celebration called Kwita Izina.

The lion extinction in Rwanda was a side-effect of the 1994 genocide there. People who had been displaced by the violence moved into the country’s Akagera Wildlife Park, the only place in Rwanda home to lions at the time. Fearful of the predators, the new park occupants poisoned them to protect themselves and their cattle.

Today, Rwanda is politically stable and has excellent park management. It has been preparing to reintroduce lions for several years, and implemented an education program for residents around Akagera Park to educate them about lions and how to co-exist with them safely and peacefully.

This is such an exciting development for a country that has worked tirelessly to recover from a tragic history.

The lions being introduced are a group of two males and five females selected for age, genetic make-up, and other compatibility factors. They were moved from small wildlife parks in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where the lion population was growing too big.

The lions will help restore the wildlife balance in Akagera Park, which is also home to giraffes, elephants, antelopes, Cape buffaloes, hippos and leopards.

“It is a breakthrough in the rehabilitation of the park … Their return will encourage the natural balance of the ecosystem and enhance the tourism product to further contribute to Rwanda’s status as an all-in-one safari destination,” said Yamina Karitanyi, the chief tourism officer at the Rwanda Development Board.

Contact Ujuzi to plan your trip to Rwanda!