Rwanda has been without lions for more than 15 years. They were all poisoned by cattle-herders after the 1994 genocide because the parks were left unattended. Incidentally when lions are poisoned with carcasses laced with poison, vultures are as well. The vulture population of Africa has plummeted by 97% over three generations for this reason.
Rwanda has a national park, the Akagera National Park and the authorities want to repopulate it with lions:
“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.” Yamina Karitanyi, the chief tourism officer at the Rwanda Development Board.
The reference to “all-in-one” is to their other major tourist attraction, the famous, highland mountain gorillas. Lions and gorillas are a nice tourist package.
The transplanted lions come from South Africa. There are two males and five females so they can form a pride of lions in Rwanda. That is the intention. They were transported by road via Johannesburg and then to the Akagera National Park.
The females have been darted and crated from the Phinda Private Game Reserve and the males come from the Tembe Elephant Park. Both are in Kwa Zulu Natal. The age of the lions is between two and ten.
They have been initially released into a large 1,000 square meter enclosure for acclimatisation. They will be released from the enclosure next month and hopefully form a pride.
It all seems good and if it helps with conservation, so much the better. However, the major motivator for this lion pride transplant is commerce, making money from tourism. That is what the lion in Africa is good for. The lion is a product. It is the only way it can be saved.