South Africa’s Lions Return To Rwanda After Being Poisoned During The 1994 Genocide

Patrick Frye - Author

Jun. 28 2015, Updated 5:54 p.m. ET

Monday will mark the return of South Africa’s lions. Rwanda has not seen the king of the jungle roam their national parks since the last lions were poisoned during the 1994 genocide. The conservationist organize African Parks is hoping to repopulate the area by using “surplus lions” from other areas, and they are taking extra measures to track their newest addition to the park.

In a related report by the Inquisitr, at one point in time there were 230 of South Africa’s lions in Rwanda. When the 1994 genocide occurred, refugees were forced to hide in the national park and it believed that cattle herders poisoned some of these lions.

According to Yamina Karitanyi, head of tourism at the Rwanda Development Board, the national parks will now have two males and five females.

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“[The lions are coming from] relatively small, confined reserves where it is necessary to occasionally remove surplus lions. It’s a breakthrough in the rehabilitation of the park. Their return will encourage the natural balance of the ecosystem.”

“Visitors to the park will now have a chance to see one of Africa’s ‘Big Five’ animals in one of the continent’s most diverse national parks, cementing Rwanda’s status as conservation focused, all-in- one safari destination.”

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Peter Fearnhead, the chief executive of African Parks, says, “The return of lions to Akagera is a conservation milestone for the park and the country.” Rwanda is mostly known for its gorilla at this point, and Karitanyi notes that the return of the lions “will encourage the natural balance of the ecosystem and enhance the tourism product to further contribute to Rwanda’s status as an all-in-one safari destination.”

Starting on Monday, the South African lions will be tranquilized and placed in steel crates for shipment to Rwanda. The journey will last 26 hours and will involve shipment by truck and plane in order to reach Akagera national park.

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“They will be continually monitored by a veterinary team with experience in translocations,” said African Parks, according to The Guardian. “They will be kept tranquilized to reduce any stress and will have access to fresh water throughout their journey.”

Upon arrival, African Parks plans on keeping the lions in a special enclosure for two weeks before they are released into the wild. Although the park has fencing, when South Africa’s lions are in Rwanda they will be tracked with special satellite collars in order to keep them straying into populated areas.

Earlier in June, the International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the lion as part of a “red list” which features species facing survival threats. While not quite endangered, the lion population has dropped and the conservation group cites the growth of human cities within the habitats of lions as one problem. They also say there is a growing trade in lion body parts in both Africa and Asia for traditional medicine.

[Image via Getty Images]


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