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During the 1960’s and 1970’s black rhinos thrived in Akagera Park with a population of about 50 rhinos. However in the 1980’s the population started declining due to poaching which resulted in the last rhino being seen in 2007.
Rwanda has three National Parks with Akagera National Park being the oldest. The park is home to over 8000 large mammals which include a herd of roughly 90 elephants. The park also has nearly 500 different species of birds. Akagera is a savannah park and is the largest protected wetland in Central Africa.
Back in July 2015, Akagera National Park reintroduced seven lions into the park. This reintroduction was a major success and increased the status among the international conservation platforms.
If the reintroduction of the rhinos plan happens, the park will become a new home to the Big Five (lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino). Having the Big Five status will help boost tourism and create job opportunities for local communities.
The project is being run by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and African Parks, who both run Akagera National Park. The project's costs are estimated to be more than £1 million. The Dutch government will support the project by contributing financially and the project has received additional funds from the People’s Postcode Lottery in the United Kingdom. The park is looking to reintroduce 10 or 20 rhinos, 7 or 15 females and 3 or 5 males. The park wants the population to grow, thrive and ultimately turn out to be a source to restock other secure parks in East Africa. The RDB is hoping that the reintroduction will have the same positive effect on the number of visitors like the lion reintroduction did.
The project's other goals include restoring, developing and managing the park as a functioning savannah ecosystem through biodiversity rehabilitation, sound conservation practices and tourism development. However, in order for this to take place, the RDB and African Parks need to recognise that Akagera must first be financially self-sustainable. African Parks manages 10 parks in seven countries in African which include: Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia.
Personally, we believe this project has more value than most realise. The project is vital in the face of the devastating rhino poaching that is bringing black rhino numbers down to dangerous levels.