Upon arrival in Akagera, the lions were all placed together in a quarantine boma, where they could be closely monitored before their eventual and highly-anticipated release back into the wild. The seven predators settled nicely into this temporary home and were all observed feeding and interacting, as hoped.
When it was time for the big cats to be officially released from their holding boma, a waterbuck carcass was strategically placed just outside the boma gates to entice the newly formed pride. Within minutes, the first female ventured out to investigate and she was closely followed by another two curious females.
Once they determined it was safe, the trio began to feast on the meat. The youngest of the five lionesses was the last female to leave the boma and she warily kept her distance in some nearby bushes. The two males were far more cautious, only exiting the boma after all of the park officials and onlookers had left.
A species restored
The seven lions in this founder population were all fitted with satellite collars to enable their movements to be tracked and their behaviour monitored post-release. According to Akagera park officials, the population more than doubled in the first year with the birth of 11 cubs. To further bolster the pride’s genetic diversity, two additional males were later translocated from South Africa to Akagera in 2017.
Now, two decades following the local extinction, guests visiting Akagera National Park are once again witnessing lions roaming free in the wild, as nature intended. We are so proud to have been part of this historic translocation, which involved the private sector, a non-governmental organisation and the government of Rwanda all working together for the greater good of conservation.
Translocation images courtesy of African Parks; billboard image courtesy of Peter Hinz.