Rhinos in Akagera National Park
Rhinos in Akagera National Park are one of the most sought for wildlife species in the park since they have recently been reintroduced for game viewing. Rwanda’s Akagera National Park is currently the largest wetland reserve in Central Africa, and the last remaining wildlife conserve in the country. The park is the only one, out of three national parks in Rwanda, where tourists are able to view wildlife species such as the Big Five.
Akagera National Park is long past its dark days, following the 1994 Rwanda Genocide that saw much of the national park nearing total destruction. There were over 50 rhinos in Akagera national park in the late 1970s, and these all lived in the savanna areas of the national park. However, the entire population of rhinos in Akagera was killed by farmers; who returned to Rwanda as refugees, after the end of the Rwanda civil war.
Most refugees who returned to Rwanda after the genocide resorted to turning to the forests in the park for timber, grazing their timber, and hunting down wildlife for bushmeat.
However, in 2010, the Rwanda Development Board alongside African Parks took over the management of the national park; and thanks to the conservation efforts of both parties, much of the park has been restored to its former glory.
Among some of the many and successful conservation projects in Akagera National Park, is the reintroduction of the black Rhinoceros to the national park. The first-ever translocation of rhinos to Akagera took place in May 2017, where 18 black eastern rhinoceros were transferred from South Africa to the national park. This is a result of the successful collaboration between the Rwanda Development Board, African Parks, and Howard. G. Buffet Foundation; which saw the reintroduction of the species after 10 years of absence in the park.
The first translocation of these rhinoceros species to Akagera national park entailed a 2,486-mile journey from South Africa to Rwanda. Since then, the number of rhinos in Akagera has spontaneously increased. This comes after the reintroduction of lions in July 2015, in the national park; and later the translocation of two more male lions to the park, in a bid to increase the population of the existing pride.
In addition to this, five more rhinos were translocated from Europe to Akagera National Park. On 24th June 2019, five rhinos consisting of three females and two males; were transferred from various zoos in Europe and donated to Rwanda by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). The five rhinos named Jasiri, Jasmina, Manny, Mandela, and Olmoti were transferred to Akagera national park on a chartered, Boeing 747-400F cargo plane, operated by Air Atlanta.
This comes as a show of good faith and collaboration between zoos and conservation organizations around the world. The rhinos Jasiri, Jasmina and Manny, were born in Safari Park Dvur Kralove zoo, in the Czech Republic. Mandela comes from the Ree Park Safari zoo in Denmark, and Olmoti is from Flamingo Land, in the United Kingdom. The rhinos are aged between two to nine years of age, and tourists visiting Akagera national park in Rwanda can see any of these rhinos while on a game drive in the national park.
The transfer of these five rhinos in Akagera National Park historically marks the longest translocation of rhinos from Europe to Africa. It entailed a 6,000km cross-continental journey from the Republic of Czechoslovakia to Akagera National Park, in Rwanda.
This display of conservation efforts sets a great example of how partnerships between zoos, along with environmental and conservation organizations, can work hand-in-hand to support efforts to secure a long future for the threatened species.
Prior to the reintroduction of the black eastern rhinos to Akagera National Park in 2017, a variety of staff in the national park took part in years of research and training in planning, preparation, tracking and monitoring of rhinos. All this was done in order to ensure the security and safety of the species from poachers, while in the national park.
Visitors traveling to Akagera National Park in Rwanda, now have a good chance of spotting rhinos in the park, after 10 solid years of their absence in the park. A lot has changed in terms of security and development in the national park; following the introduction of an anti-poaching unit in Akagera, deployment of a helicopter for aerial surveillance, as well as an increased number of park rangers to boost the security in the park.
There are estimated to be less than 5,000 black rhinoceros on the African continent, with a majority of the species found in South Africa. The reintroduction of black Eastern Rhinos to Akagera National Park has created a positive impact on the number of tourist visits in the national park; with over 44,000 tourists visits recorded in the park, in 2018 alone.
In addition to this, there has been an increase in the total annual revenue, of USD 2 million dollars, received by the Rwandan government from tourism activities in Akagera national park alone. This shows the national park is developing at a fast rate; thanks to the joined efforts of the Rwanda Development Board, the government of Rwanda, communities living within and adjacent to Akagera national parks; along with other NGOs such as the Howard. G. Buffet Foundation, EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria) and African Parks.
Akagera national park boasts of over 20 black rhinos, over 100 savanna elephants and more than 15 lions. The national park is home to over 500 species of birds, making it a top destination for birding tours in Rwanda. The park is also a habitat for a variety of primate species such as; the olive baboon, silver monkeys, vervet monkeys, and blue monkeys among others.
Aside from the black eastern rhinos in Akagera national park, tourists visiting this national park in Rwanda will also have the opportunity to see other wildlife animals like; lions, zebras, giraffes, duikers, crocodiles, hippos, hyenas, antelopes and so many more. The park offers its visitors both day and night guided game drives at a fee of USD 35 and USD 45 dollars, respectively.
Visitors traveling to Akagera national park in Rwanda can engage in a series of activities in the park such as; camping, boat cruise, guided nature walks, game drives, fishing and community visits among others. Tourists staying in the national park for 2 or more days, can find accommodation in the following lodges, located within the park; Magashi Safari Camp, Akagera Game Lodge, Karenge Bush Camp, and Ruzizi Tented Lodge.
Akagera national park is roughly a 2½ hour drive from Kigali City, about 110km from the city center. The national park is located in the North-eastern region of Rwanda, along Rwanda’s border with Tanzania.
Akagera national park in Rwanda is the perfect stop for any wildlife safari in the country; and any visitor who wishes to see rhinos along with other wildlife animals, should not miss including a wildlife safari to this national park.
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