Biodiversity Conservation

Akagera National Park is Central Africa’s largest protected wetland and the last remaining refuge for savannah-adapted species in Rwanda, its rolling highlands, vast plains, and swamp-fringed lakes containing incredible biodiversity and rare species. Following the implementation of protection and management measures as well as reintroductions, Akagera has thriving populations of lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo, as well as zebra, giraffe, antelope and hundreds of bird species.

Species Restorations

© Gaël Ruboneka Vande Weghe
Following reintroductions, Akagera now has a thriving lion population
  • After lion were hunted out in the 1990s, a founder population was reintroduced in 2015 and 2017. Lion numbers have since expanded exponentially with the birth of several litters. Today, Akagera’s lions number around 54.
  • Elephant had been wiped out by poaching, until an initial reintroduction returned a group of 26 individuals in 1975. This founder population has grown to over 140 (6.8% growth from the last census)
  • 2017 saw the historic return of 18 eastern black rhinoceros to Akagera – and Rwanda – after a 10-year absence. Five more were translocated from European zoos in June 2019 to boost genetic diversity, while some calves have been born, creating the beginnings of a healthy population.
  • In 2021, in partnership with the RDB and andBeyond, 30 southern white rhino were successfully translocated to Akagera to expand their range state and provide a species-safe haven. Since then, five healthy calves have been born to the population.
  • The endangered Masai giraffe, introduced to Akagera from Kenya in 1986, currently numbers an estimated 110 individuals, as per a recent survey done in collaboration with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, indicating positive population growth.

Monitoring and Surveys

© John Dickens
Akagera has Rwanda’s only population of eastern black rhino, reintroduced in 2017
  • Monitoring key species continues, with a range of tracking devices deployed or replaced on different species, for example, white and black rhino, giraffe, elephant and rhino. Meanwhile, buffalo, topi and zebra have been fitted with ear tags – a new method that is being trialled.
  • Ongoing amphibian and reptile surveys help add new species to the park’s records, while regular butterfly and bird counts help better understand the park’s biodiversity.
  • Nearly 500 bird species have been documented, making Akagera an important ornithological site.

Akagera also works with a number of global universities and conservation organisations to deepen understanding of the park’s complex ecosystems through surveys and workshops, to which Rwandan and African students are invited for conservation capacity building. Recent studies include an insect assessment and a leopard survey.

Conservation Law Enforcement

© Scott Ramsay
The Akagera team conducts aerial and land-based monitoring regularly.

One of the reasons for the incredible renewal of Akagera National Park’s wildlife is an effective conservation law enforcement strategy. Akagera’s team of over 100 rangers consists mainly of local community members, who patrol, track and deter illegal activities. Along with the support of community members, we have had significant success in reducing poaching to an all-time low. As a result, there has been no recorded loss of high-value species (elephant, rhino and lion) to poaching since 2010, or when they were reintroduced.

Akagera’s Canine Anti-Poaching Unit plays a significant role in its protection strategy, providing increased monitoring and overall coverage of the park. Training and upskilling of conservation law enforcement teams on wildlife monitoring and tracking technology is a continuous focus, and the rangers are committed to maintaining their excellent track record.