Just a couple of hours east from Kigali, in a completely different setting from the rest of the country, you will find in the heart of the savannah, a rich wildlife, namely Akagera National Park, This reserve is central Africa’s largest protected wetland and the last remaining refuge for savannah-adapted species in Rwanda. The rolling highlands, vast plains and swamp fringed lakes of this north-eastern territory contain a rich biodiversity and are home to a number of rare species, such as the shoebill stork. With more than 12,000 large mammals and 482 bird species, this breath-taking landscape is every nature lover’s wildest dream.
The Rwandan Civil War in the 1990’s took its toll on the park when much of the land was reallocated as farmland for returning refugees, reducing the size of the park from 2,500 km² to just 1,122 km². The high population density and human encroachment into the park was a pressing issue in the past, but the on-going efforts to restore animal populations, increased law enforcement and the construction of the fence resulted in a positive impact.
In late 2009, African Parks signed a joint management agreement with the Rwanda Development Board (RDB) establishing the Akagera Management Company (AMC) in 2010 with board members from both the RDB and African Parks jointly managing the park. As a result visitor numbers have more than doubled.
Since 2010, poaching has been reduced, wildlife has prospered and the tourism industry has been transformed. Now, at the threshold of becoming Rwanda’s only Big Five park, Akagera provides opportunity for local employment. This life-giving revenue stream not only strengthens ties with surrounding communities, but ensures the very survival of the park and its wildlife.
- 18 Eastern black rhinos were brought back to Rwanda, and were reintroduced to Akagera from South Africa in 2017 after the last individual was seen in 2007
- Lions were reintroduced in 2015 after they were hunted out in the 1990’s, and the population doubled in the first year with the birth of eleven cubs in 2016
- Overhauled law enforcement and significantly reduced poaching to an all time low for the park in six years
- A canine dog unit was trained and deployed in 2015 to counter poaching
- A 120km solar powered predator-proof fence was constructed significantly reducing human-wildlife conflict situations
- More than 1,300 school children visit Akagera each year along with teachers
- Tourism revenue has increased more than 300% in a six year period going back into community development projects.
- Ruzizi Tented Lodge and Karenge Bush Camp are award-winning lodging options for visitors which helps support the park
- Visitor numbers to Akagera are increasing annually, with Rwandan nationals comprising more than 50% of visitors to the park