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Akagera lake view © Jytte Fredholm Ferreira

The success story of Akagera National Park continues as this year, Rwanda’s only Big 5 reserve reported a 25% growth in revenue for 2019 – $2.5 million. A successful partnership with the non-profit conservation organisation African Parks, secured in 2010, has seen the number of visitors to the park grow each successive year. 2019 saw 49, 000 visitors to Akagera and, as in previous years, 48% of these visitors were Rwandan citizens.

Breakfast is served at Ruzizii Camp, Akagera © Jytte Fredholm Ferreira

As with any National Reserve, any growth in revenue is significant and Akagera Park management report that the revenue received accounts for 90% of their annual visitors. $525,000 of the 2019 revenue was directed back into the local communities, either through staff salaries or through local purchases.

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It is not just visitor numbers that have increased over the years – monitoring programs and aerial counts have shown that animal numbers are on the rise as well, with overall numbers rising from 12,000 in 2017 to 13,500 in 2019. Seven lions were reintroduced to the park in 2015, having been relocated from South Africa and eighteen black rhinos were moved from South Africa to Akagera in 2017. Four months after the relocation of the rhino, the birth of first rhino calf in the wild in over a decade was recorded, and the arrival of the rhino completed Akagera’s “Big 5 status”. A further five rhino arrived from a zoo in the Czech Republic in 2019, increasing tourist interest in the park.

Elephant herd in Akagera © Bryan Havemann

Sarah Hall, who is the Tourism and Marketing Manager at Akagera National Park, told Rwanda’s The New Times that increased revenue meant several improvements including a tar road from Kabarondo to make access to the reserve easier for the guests. She also noted that the reserve had seen an increase in visitors from Francophone countries.

For a relatively small country with a complicated history, the success of Akagera National Park under the management of African Parks is a triumph of conservation efforts and, as the wildlife benefits, so will the local communities.

Lions have been re-introduced to Akagera © Jytte Fredholm Ferreira

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