THERE’S a new lifeline for wildlife in Rwanda with the arrival of 30 white rhinos, together with plans to expand the national park home of the country’s mountain gorillas.
The thirty new arrivals have been introduced to Akagera National Park after being sourced from the Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa.
It has been a project involving the Rwanda Development Board, ethical travel specialists &Beyond, and African Parks, with funding from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.
The aim is to extend the white rhino range and create a secure new breeding stronghold in Rwanda, supporting population growth to ensure the long-term survival of the species in the wild.
White rhinos are now classified as near-threatened with numbers declining across existing strongholds, largely due to poaching driven by demand for their horns.
The relatively warm and low-lying plains of Akagera comprise savannah, woodland, wetland and a dozen lakes, making it an ideal new home for the gentle giants.
It will help boost tourism income too, of course, as the development board, with African Parks, aims to transform the National Park into a world-class safari location.
The largely open expanse is ideal for game viewing, and organisers are taking steps to ensure the ‘Big Five’ roam the park in greater numbers over the course of time.
Since 2010, authorities have worked to cut poaching to an all-time low, with the introduction of helicopter patrols, a canine unit and rhino trackers.
The rhinos are not the only recent additions. A family of lions from South Africa is settling in well and breeding successfully, while 18 eastern black rhinos have moved in.
Visitors can also encounter buffalo, elephant, antelope, zebra, giraffe, baboons, monkeys, an incredible 490 bird species, and large pods of hippos on Lake Ihema.
Boat trips on the lake also reveal Nile crocodiles and abundant waterbirds on the island in the middle.
Be warned that the only way to explore the park is by vehicle, whether through a tour operator or self-drive. The National Park also has a vehicle to hire, and individual spaces on night drives.
The services of a guide can be booked through the park, and there are accommodation options at various lodges, a bush camp in the north at select periods, or camping in specific sites.
The good news at Akagera comes as Rwanda embarks on an ambitious project to expand Volcanoes National Park (pictured above) and ensure a future for the mountain gorillas that call it home.
A £200 million initiative will expand the park by around 23 per cent, increasing its size by 37.4 square kilometers.
The mountain gorilla population in the Virunga Massif continues to grow, and is the only great ape species increasing in number anywhere in the world.
Closer to home, Visit Rwanda and Arsenal FC have joined forces to produce a cuddly, and eco-friendly, toy gorilla, with a percentage of sales helping to fund the expansion. You can see it here.
For more tourism information on Rwanda, see visitwranda.com.