News Lions: Domestic tourism surge at Akagera park

Akagera National Park has seen a steady increase in both tourist numbers and revenue since the reintroduction of lions in June.

This was disclosed Wednesday by Jes Gruner, the manager of Akagera National Park, while addressing local leaders in Kayonza town.

Concerned URL http://www.newtimes.co.rw
Source the newtimes of 4 december, 2015,editorial@newtimes.co.rw
Release date 22/12/2015
Contributor Lewis Mary Ndayisaba
Geographical coverage National
Keywords Lions, Tourism, Akagera National Park

Akagera National Park has seen a steady increase in both tourist numbers and revenue since the reintroduction of lions in June.

This was disclosed Wednesday by Jes Gruner, the manager of Akagera National Park, while addressing local leaders in Kayonza town.

“The number of domestic tourists has increased by 37 per cent since July. Many of the tourists are attracted by the lions more than any other animals,” Gruner said.

“Two of the lionesses have already been mated, so we expect cubs in the near future. The lions have no doubt had a great impact on the park.”

Figures show that domestic tourism has risen from 12,809 recorded in 2014 (excluding December) to 14,890 so far this year.

Seven lions, including two males, were re-introduced into the park located in Eastern Province in June, ending more than two decades of a lull during which the country had no lions.

Gruner also said the park would bring rhinos to boost competitiveness.

“It’s not easy to get rhinos because they are some of the most endangered animals; only about 800 are left in the world. But we are optimistic and will keep trying. Introducing the ‘big five’ puts us in a good position to compete favourably with other parks on the continent,” he said.

The big five game animals are lions, elephants, buffaloes, leopards and rhinoceros – the latter being the only species missing in Akagera park.

The three districts that border the park, Nyagatare, Kayonza and Gatsibo, share 5 per cent of the Akagera park tourism revenue under a revenue-sharing programme.

Joseph Karama, the community liaison manager at the park, said under the revenue-sharing programme, Rwanda Development Board (RDB) dedicates 5 per cent of the park entry fees annually to fund various community projects.

He said funds were allocated for programmes, such as social infrastructure (schools, health centres), local associations and small enterprises.

“We have met here to assess how the projects are going and to share more funds. The amount of money has been increasing steadily. We started by sharing only Rwf56 million, but today we are going to give out over Rwf112 million to sectors neighbouring the park,” he said.

Karama said the programme had helped in various ways, including checking poaching.

“Former poachers are some of the beneficiaries of the project where they are given start-ups to help them achieve self-reliance.”

John Mugabo, the mayor of Kayonza, said the welfare of the people surrounding the park had greatly improved since the introduction of the revenue-sharing programme.

“We will use this money to construct schools in remote areas near the park, cultural centres, roads, among others,” he said.

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