African Parks to get $65m grant

Monday March 13 2017

Seven lions translocated from South Africa are

Seven lions translocated from South Africa are released into the wilderness of Akagera National Park on July 27, 2015. PHOTO | RDB  

By Jean-Pierre Afadhali

African Parks, the concessionaire managing Rwanda’s Akagera National Park will get a Rwf53.6 billion ($65 million) grant to boost its conservation projects in protected areas, including the largest park in the country.

The funds will be disbursed by the Wyss Foundation — a private American charitable foundation that supports conservation efforts in Africa.

Details on how the grant will be shared between the 10 national parks and protected areas in Africa were not immediately available. The company runs conservation projects in seven African countries covering six million hectares in Malawi, Zambia, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Chad.

Sarah Hall, the marketing manager for Akagera National Park, told Rwanda Today, that she did not have details about how the money would be spent but suggested that it could be used to bridge funding gaps.

“The funds may be used to meet our budget deficit, which is usually met by African Parks,” she said.

African Parks CEO Peter Fearnhead, was quoted as saying the organisation targets to protect 20 parks by 2020, which will bring the number of hectares of wilderness under the organisation’s management to 10 million.

“This historic gift, and the partnership forged with the Wyss Foundation, enables us to have a conservation impact at a scale that is globally significant,” said Mr Fearnhead.

The previous grant given in 2015 was used to reintroduce lions into Akagera Park — a key conservation achievement.

According to conservationists ,the Civil War in the 1990’s affected the park because most of the land was reallocated as farmland for returning refugees, reducing the size of the park from 2,500 square kilometres to just 1,122 square kilometre.

African Parks plans to reintroduce rhinos, but this move has faced difficulties as they were expected to be in the country late last year.

In an earlier interview, Ms Hall said the lions were brought in a year later than expected. The number of lion population in Akagera National Park is now 15.

If the move to bring in rhinos is successful then the park would get a “Big five” status. The big five game animals in Africa are the lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard, and rhino.

Currently, the Akagera National Park is trying to bring back animals, like hippos, which were locked out of the park after it was fenced in efforts to reduce human and wildlife conflicts.