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Lions Return to Rwanda Park for First Time in Two Decades

posted: 06/29/15
by: Danny Clemens
Lions released into Rwanda
Matthew Poole

The lion population in Rwanda's Akagera National Park met a tragic end in 1994. Fearing for the lives of people displaced by government-sponsored genocide and their livestock living in the unmanaged park, cattle herders poisoned the park's remaining lions, effectively rendering the species extinct in the park -- until now.

Conservation organization African Parks is in the process of reintroducing the species back into Akagera, translocating seven lions -- two male and five female -- from South Africa into the park. The lions come from two reserves with lion populations that are quickly outgrowing the confines of their "relatively small, confined reserves".

The lions will be quarantined for 14 days within a specially constructed enclosure in the park, where they will be monitored by veterinarians before being fully released into the park.

Selected based on their reproductive potential, the group of seven includes "young adults, sub-adult females and young adult males from different genetic stock," according to a Facebook post from African Parks. The organization will monitor the lions' movement via GPA trackers for the next two years to determine whether or not the pride is growing.

"The return of lions to Akagera is a conservation milestone for the park and the country, said African Parks CEO Peter Fearnhead. "Restoring national parks to their former biodiversity state is a key deliverable of the African Parks conservation model and we, in conjunction with our Government partner, the Rwandan Development Board, are delighted to have been able to reintroduce one of the key species to this beautiful national park."

The lion (Panthera leo) is currently classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Elsewhere in Africa, the species' population is estimated to have halved in the past twenty years. The species is especially threatened by habitat loss and poaching. Fragmentation of remaining populations has resulted in inbreeding and reduced genetic diversity.

Click here for more information from African Parks

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