Akagera is almost unrecognisable today compared to just 20 years ago when it was on the verge of being lost forever. While peace was finally restored in the 1990s after the 1994 Genocide, Akagera’s demise was just beginning. Refugees returning to Rwanda after the genocide were still battling for their own survival and turned to the forests for timber, wildlife for protein and the wild savannas for their livestock. Lions were hunted to local extinction, rhinos disappeared, and the park’s wildlife was displaced by tens of thousands of long-horned cattle. Biodiversity was practically lost, and with it so was employment and tourism. The park’s value was virtually diminished, which makes its story of revival even more remarkable.

In 2010, African Parks assumed management of Akagera in partnership with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB), shifting the park's trajectory from one of oblivion to prosperity and hope. After years of preparation, through effective law enforcement and management, 2017 saw the historic return of 18 Eastern black rhinoceros after a 10-year absence, thanks to the support from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. An additional five captive-bred black rhinos were translocated from Europe in June 2019, with the support of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), to augment the genetic diversity. Two new male lions were also translocated to Akagera in 2017 to enhance the genetic diversity of the growing pride, which has now tripled since their initial reintroduction in 2015. With poaching essentially halted, the park’s key wildlife populations have continued to rise. The park is generating more than US$2.5M in annual revenue, making it 90% self-financing driven by the tens of thousands of people, half of whom are nationals, coming to see its rebirth.

Akagera Highlights

  • In 2017, 18 Eastern black rhinoceros were reintroduced to Akagera bringing the species back to the park, and the country of Rwanda after a 10-year absence. The population was further supplemented by an additional five individuals translocated from European zoos in 2019.
  • Lions were reintroduced in 2015 after they were hunted out in the 1990s, and the population doubled in the first year with the birth of eleven cubs. Two additional males were translocated from South Africa to Akagera in 2017 to increase the population’s genetic diversity.
  • We overhauled law enforcement and significantly reduced poaching in the park. To help secure Akagera, a counter-poaching canine unit was trained and deployed in 2015 and are essential in maintaining very low levels of poaching in and around the park.
  • A 120 km solar powered predator-proof fence was constructed and significantly reduced human-wildlife conflict situations.
  • More than 2,000 school children visit Akagera each year for free along with teachers and local leaders as part of the environmental education programme
  • Tourism revenue increased by more than 1,150% from 2010 to 2019, generating US$2.5M and making Akagera 90% self-financing. In total, the park welcomed more than 50,000 tourists in 2019, half of whom were Rwandan nationals.

Partners

In late 2010, African Parks signed a joint management agreement with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) establishing the Akagera Management Company (AMC) with board members from both the RDB and African Parks jointly managing the park.

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