Kigali - The Akagera National Park located in Rwanda's eastern province has embarked on improving conservation efforts to protect wildlife, natural habitat and increase tourism revenues.
The park, which is Rwanda's only protected savannah region with a wide range of animals, has intensified efforts to ensure it is run for the public benefit.
“In order to boost wildlife conservation at Akagera National Park, in 2010, the government of Rwanda entered into public-private partnership with African Parks to effectively manage the park," said Jean Paul Karinganire, assistant tourism and marketing manager of Akagera Management Company, in an interview with Xinhua at the park.
He said that along with wildlife conservation and community engagement, the park has evolved in the last decade.
“We have put in much effort in engaging the communities surrounding the national park to participate in activities of the park which has boosted wildlife conservation efforts and reduced poaching in the park,” said Karinganire.
According to him, the park has seen the re-introduction of lions in 2015, black rhinos in 2017 and white rhinos in 2021 as part of the efforts to ensure wildlife conservation and increased tourism revenues.
“Akagera National Park reintroduced seven lions in 2015 and now the number has grown to around 40. We introduced black rhinos in 2017 and they have had calves. Last year, we received white rhinos and they have now adapted to the park conditions,” explained Karinganire.
In order to secure the park, Karinganire said the park has ensured effective law enforcement, a good working team of rangers and collaboration with the communities around the park.
“Our efforts to ensure animals thrive in the park will lead to increased tourism activities and revenues. We are doing all these in line with the government of Rwanda's policy of becoming a conservation destination having a national park which is well protected and benefiting the people surrounding the national park,” he said.
According to Karinganire, following the lion and rhino reintroductions, Akagera officially became a “Big Five” park in 2017.
In order to ensure security and safety of the wildlife in Akagera, the park also introduced a K9 unit, which is used for rapid deployment in conjunction with law enforcement patrols on the ground.
K9 unit is tasked with combating poaching and human-wildlife conflict, which continue to represent a threat to Akagera's people and wildlife.
“Every day at K9 we work with dogs on patrol and also train them to have knowledge of obstacle crossing, obedience exercises and human scent tracking and detection,” William Habimana, deputy head of K9 unit, told Xinhua in the interview.
He added that K9 is a law enforcement unit in Akagera National Park which has been effective in apprehending people doing illegal activities in the park.
In January this year, the Akagera park launched the first hot air balloon as part of the efforts to boost wildlife conservation and tourism promotion at the park.
In 2010, the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) and African Parks signed a joint management agreement establishing the Akagera Management Company to manage Akagera, transforming the park into one of the most coveted wildlife destinations in Africa and a sustainable revenue source for the region's communities.