It’s Rwanda Week here at Ker & Downey. We’re taking an in-depth look at the ins and outs of traveling in Rwanda and the incredible country that has become one of Africa’s greatest success stories. Akagera National Park and its recent release of seven lions is another one of the country’s great successes!
Yesterday we looked at the Gishwati-Mukura National Park and the strides Rwanda is making towards conservation and regeneration of the rain forest. Today we’re taking a look at another national park that is in the process of being rehabilitated.
Akagera National Park was once one of the finest ecological reserves and wildlife hubs in Africa with African savannah, acacia woodland, immense swamps filled with forest-fringed lakes, and chains of jagged mountains. Located in northeast Rwanda along the Tanzania border, the park protected nearly ten percent of the country. But like the Gishwati region, Akagera National Park saw refugees take over the savannahs to settle new villages. Poaching and environmental degradation reduced Akagera’s wildlife population by half. Yet another tragedy of the Rwandan Civil War.
But like Gishwati-Mukura National Park, there is hope. In 2010 the Rwandan government joined forces with African Parks to rehabilitate Akagera National Park through strict conservation laws, investing in luxury tented camps, and reintroducing wildlife back into the park. Their efforts are paying off too. The wildlife populations in the park are growing – an estimated 90 elephants, masses of buffalo and hippos, primates like olive baboons, vervet monkeys, and the blue monkey, which was thought to be extinct in Akagera, reside in the park.
Various antelope species, giraffe, zebra, and leopard can also be found in the park. It is one of the most scenic and diverse reserves in Africa wit one-third of the park made up of a complex system of lakes and linking papyrus swamps, creating the largest protected wetland in central Africa. It’s home to some of the continent’s densest concentrations of water birds.
Most exciting, over the summer Akagera National Park released seven Transvaal lions from South Africa into its boundaries, the first lions in Rwanda in 15 years. It’s a conservation milestone for both the park and the country. With the return of lions to the park, the natural balance of the ecosystem will also make its return.
Through its conservation efforts, Rwanda is establishing itself as an all-in-one safari destination where you can track gorillas and chimpanzees and enjoy a traditional luxury safari in what will soon be one of the finest wildlife reserves in Africa, just as it once was.