The lions of Akagera park

Saturday April 1 2017

Lions at the Akagera National Park in eastern

Lions at the Akagera National Park in eastern Rwanda in 2015 after they had just been translocated from South Africa. PHOTO: FILE 

By Jean-Pierre Afadhali

The film Return of Lion, which premiered recently in Kigali; is an opportunity for viewers to see how the lions in Rwanda’s Akagera National Park live.

The documentary, produced by Nat Geo Wild, an international wildlife TV, follows two males and five females as they adjust to their new environment and overcome challenges to survive.

The lions were translocated to the park located in Eastern Rwanda along the border with Tanzania, from South Africa, in 2015, as part of a conservation effort after they had all died off in the park.
According to Jes Gruner, the park manager, there were over 300 lions in the park but they died mainly due to human wildlife conflict in the area. Some were poisoned, he said.

The film shows how the big cats compete with hyenas for prey as they hunt impala and other herbivores.

The wildlife documentary captures how the re-introduction changed the ecosystem in the park.

It also shows the night life in the park, when lions to do their hunting.

However, the film narrator said the imported lions lacked hunting skills and strategy in the beginning.

The movie also takes the viewer to the beautiful landscapes with scattered lakes, plains, savannah, and marshland.

The documentary was aired on Nat Geo for a worldwide audience, and will also be aired around parks for conservation campaign for local communities to watch.

The narrative is in English and is being translated into Kinyarwanda.

Towards the end, the movie captures the lions after they gave birth. Currently their population is 15, and is projected to rise to between 34 and 40 in the next three years.

Conservationists say 70 lions can easily coexist with other animals in the park.

At the end of the screening, there was a question and answer session.

Some people wanted to know how the lions were filmed at night.

Alexander Sletten, the filmmaker, said they used specialised cameras that would not disturb the animals.

Others wanted to know why some of the lions had chains on them.

The park manager said they are to monitor the lion’s movements in the park and keep them safe.