The 1994 Rwandan genocide resulted in the loss of close to 1 million lives and the local extinction of lions in Akagera National Park. Twenty years after the incident and in celebration of Akagera’s 80th birthday, the park is planning to reintroduce lions.
Communities on the periphery of the reserve have lived without lions for many years. In order to prepare communities for the lions arrival, the park and a local theatre group have developed a play to teach everyone how to live with lions once again.
The aim of the production is to show people the positive impact the lions will have on their livelihoods and also to teach them how to coexist with lions in the nearby area. The highlight of the play was that the king is coming back, and that it would boost tourism, increasing the local income and restoring the ecological balance in Akagera.
The production was received with enthusiasm and a tiny bit of trepidation: people were excited for the return of the lions however a few concerns were raised if the lions escaped. An Akagera community representative reassured the community of the park fence and explained how the fence is patrolled and monitored to prevent any escapes. The lions are also fitted with GPS collars and their movements will be tracked.
African Parks aims to reintroduce eight lions to kick start the project. Once received, the lions will be placed in temporary bomas for a quarantine period and to familiarise them with their environment, before being released into the wild.