Thirty white rhinos arrived in Rwanda from &Beyond Phinda Game Reserve in South Africa as part of conservation efforts to repopulate the endangered species at the Akagera National Park.
The rhinos – 19 females and 11 males – landed at the Kigali International Airport on Monday, in what has been described as the largest single rhino translocation ever undertaken.
In 2007, the rhino population in Akagera National Park had gone almost extinct due to poaching. The white and black rhinos population in Rwanda began being revived in 2017 when the country received the first batch of 17 rhinos from South Africa.
In 2019, five more black rhinos were flown in from the Czech Republic. The current rhino population in Rwanda is 56.
Once a poachers’ paradise, the park has seen endangered species of rhinos, elephants, Cape buffalo, lions and leopards hunt and gaze once again.
In 2015, Rwanda also reintroduced lions – brought from South Africa –after they had disappeared from the country for over 15 years.
“Today, we are not only happy that the rhinos have found a safe home but they also add value to our tourism, wildlife conservation in this park and our country,” said Ariella Kageruka, Acting Chief Tourism Officer at Rwanda Development Board.
The country hopes that repopulating Akagera National Park will revive wildlife tourism that was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of park visitors dropped from 29,000 in 2019 to 7,000 in 2020.
Rwanda’s tourism sector recorded a significant drop during the pandemic, from $498 million earned in 2019 to $121 million earned in 2020.
The pandemic has also affected the country’s revenues from meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE tourism) with revenues dropping from $60 million in 2019 to just $4 million in 2020.
The drop in tourism revenues has affected not only government coffers but also the communities around the park. Through the Revenue-sharing Program that reserves 10 percent of the tourism revenues for the community, residents around, for instance, Volcanoes park, received $129,000 in 2020 down from $690,000 in 2019.