Lions will be reintroduced to Rwanda’s Akagera National Park after a 1994 genocide of about 800,000 people sparked their disappearance 15 years ago as parks went unmanaged and cattle farmers poisoned the cats.
Five females and two male lions are scheduled to be transported from private reserves in southeastern South Africa to the East African nation, African Parks, a non-profit organization that manages wildlife areas in seven countries, said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday.
“It is a breakthrough in the rehabilitation of the park under the public private partnership between the Rwanda Development Board and African Parks,” Ambassador Yamina Karitanyi, the Chief Tourism Officer at the board, said in the statement. “The return of lions will encourage the natural balance of the ecosystem.”
Between 30,000 and 35,000 African lions remain in the wild today and their numbers have fallen 30 percent over the past 20 years, according to the WWF, a conservation organization. Lions can weigh as much as 225 kilograms (496 pounds), the second-largest cats after tigers.
After the lions are quarantined for 14 days, they will be fitted with satellite collars so their movements can be monitored and released into the park, the groups said in the statement.
Akagera, which lies in eastern Rwanda, is 112,000 hectares (277,000 acres) in size, and is home to large herds of buffalo, impala and zebra, all prey of lions.