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Three Lion Cubs Boost Rwanda’s Restoration Effort

Conservationists hope for a continued baby boom among lions transferred from South Africa last year.

Akagera-National-Park-lion-cub-photo-Sean-Carter

Photo: Sean-Carter. The six-week-old babies are the first lion cubs born at Akagera National Park in nearly 20 years, according to the group “Friends of Akagera National Park.”

By the Associated Press and Vicki Croke

Three lion cubs were born in a wildlife park in Rwanda, boosting efforts to restore the country’s lion population, which was wiped out following the country’s 1994 genocide.

African Parks, a Johannesburg-based group that manages Akagera National Park in Rwanda, said the mother is 11-year-old Shema, one of seven lions transported from South Africa to Rwanda, as we reported last year. Their father, Ntwari, is five years old, one of two males in the group from South Africa.

“It’s news that we have been waiting for,” Sarah Hall, Akagera’s tourism and marketing manager, said Friday.

Akagera-National-Park-lion-cubs-Sean-Carter

Photo: Sean Carter.

Cattle herders poisoned Rwanda’s last lions after the park was left unmanaged in the genocide’s aftermath. Returning refugees took over much of the park, reducing its size by more than half. The park is now patrolled and enclosed by electrical fencing.

The reintroduction of lions at Akagera is a rare piece of good news for Africa’s lion population, which has plummeted in recent decades because of a loss of prey and habitat and growing conflict with rural communities that seek to protect their livestock.

The cubs at Akagera, which are about six weeks old, were spotted with their mother last week.

Ntwari, the dominant male in the Akagera group, has also been seen mating with two other lions, indicating that more cubs could be on the way, according to African Parks.

RDB-African Parks

Photo: RDB/African Parks.

“We are aware that they do breed quite quickly, which is why we couldn’t bring in too many to start with,” she said. There is no concern for now about inbreeding because the females have adequate “genetic diversity” and the males are unrelated, according to Hall.

African Parks cautions that lion cubs are especially vulnerable in their first few months because they can be attacked by predators and rely completely on their mother.

Also on WBUR’s The Wild Life:
Part Of Rwanda’s Continuing Recovery: The Return Of Lions

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