History of Akagera National Park
History of Akagera National Park is a key point that a traveler would love to know as this is some of the information that will give you a heads-up about the park. Akagera National Park is the pride of Rwanda, as far as wildlife tours in the East African country are concerned. The national park derives its name from River Kagera, which flows through the park. The park is located in the North-eastern part of Rwanda, in the districts of Kayonza and Nyagatare. The southern part of Akagera national park is used as an entrance by visitors into the national park and is situated in the district of Kayonza; while the northern gate of the park is used as only as an exit out of Akagera. The northern gate of the park is situated in the district of Nyagatare.
The national park currently covers 1,122km² and mainly consists of savanna, montane forests, woodland, marsh, and swamps. The park is being managed by Akagera Management Company, after a joint agreement in 2010 between Rwanda Development Board and African Parks, to manage the national park.
The history of the amazing Akagera national park dates back to as far as colonial times. The national park was founded in 1934 by the Belgian government, in a bid to protect the remaining species of wildlife in the park that were under threat. The park previously covered an area of 2,500km² and was famous for its rich bio-diversity in flora and fauna species.
Akagera national park in Rwanda was home to a wide range of wildlife species such as the Big Five, which comprised; lions, savannah elephants, buffaloes, rhinos and the leopard. This national park was previously referred to as the ‘Park of Lycanos,’ or rather, ‘Parc aux Lycanos’ in French; due to a large number of wild dogs in the park. However, most of these wild dogs were killed by an epidemic in the park, and the last of the species were seen in the park in 1984.
In the 1970s, there were over 50 black rhinos living in Akagera National Park following their relocation from Tanzania. However, the years following the 1994 Rwandan Genocide saw most of these rhinos killed to a point that the species became extinct in the national park. A large number of Rwandan refugees returned back home after the genocide and settled down within the national park. As a result, a large portion of the park’s forests were cut down for timber, wildlife was hunted for their bushmeat, and the park’s savannah woodlands were turned into grazing grounds for cattle.
As a result of continuous poaching and encroachment of land in Akagera national park, over 25% of the park’s forests were destroyed, and the last rhinos in the park were sighted in 2007. Originally, there were about 300 lions in Akagera, but years of poaching led to the extinction of the species until July 2015, when seven lions were transferred from the Phinda Private Game reserve in South Africa. The five lionesses were donated by And Beyond, an NGO in South Africa, to Akagera National Park in Rwanda. Later, two male lions were donated to Akagera by Tembe Elephant Park in KwaZulu-Natal, in South Africa. This conservation project saw the reintroduction of lions back to Akagera National Park, after 15 solid years of their absence in the park.
In May 2017, 18 black eastern rhinoceros were translocated from South Africa to Akagera National Park, in Rwanda. This translocation, covering a distance of 2,485 miles, saw the reintroduction of rhinos back to the national park, after 10 years of their absence. This was a great achievement for conservationists and staff at Akagera national park; all thanks to a joint collaboration between Rwanda Development Board, African Parks, and the Howard Buffet Foundation.
Prior to the reintroduction of the rhinos to Akagera national park, the majority of the staff at the park underwent intensive training in the planning, preparation, monitoring, and tracking of rhinos; so as to ensure the security, safety, and multiplication of the species in the national park. In addition to this, the national park has beefed up its security by employing and training more park rangers, introduced an anti-poaching canine unit, and acquired a helicopter for aerial surveillance of wildlife in the park.
The management of Akagera national park has continued to boost the number of rhinos in the park; with the latest addition being five black rhinos, which were transferred from three different zoos in Europe. On Monday 24th June 2019, at exactly 2:45 am, a Boeing 747-400F cargo plane landed in Kigali International Airport. The chartered plane, operated by Air Atlanta, transported the five rhinos from the Czech Republic to Akagera National Park, in Rwanda.
The rhinos were transported over 3,700 miles, making this the longest journey ever recorded in the translocation of rhinos from Europe to Africa. Currently, there are over 25 black eastern rhinos in Akagera National Park in Rwanda.
Since 2010 when African Parks, alongside Rwanda Development Board, assumed the management of Akagera National Park, tourist visits to the national park have greatly increased. In 2018 alone, the national park recorded 44,000 tourist visits and earning about USD2 million as tourism revenue. This makes Akagera national park 75% self-financing as a national park.
Visitors traveling to Akagera National Park can engage in a variety of tourism activities such as; day and evening game drives, boat cruises, hiking and nature walks, fishing, birding, camping and cultural visits among others.
Akagera national park also has quite a variety of accommodation facilities, which offers visitors a budget, mid-range, and luxury lodging services. Some of these lodging facilities in Akagera National Park include; Akagera Game Lodge, Ruzizi Tented Lodge, Karenge Bush Camp, and Magashi Safari Camp.
Akagera National Park in Rwanda is the ideal place to be for any visitor interested in viewing savannah wildlife animals in the country. Book with us your tour to Akagera and get to enjoy the best of wildlife safari in Rwanda.