LIONS RETURNING TO RWANDA

July 2, 2015

Phinda Mountain 2013-158

Game parks in Rwanda will again be home to lions after tour operator, &Beyond, donated five lionesses from Phinda Private Game Reserve. The five lionesses are being translocated to Rwanda as part of an African Parks project aimed at reversing the local extinction of the species in Akagera National Park.

Lions became extinct in Akagera fifteen years ago when Rwanda experienced a period of intense upheaval following the 1994 genocide. A lack of management of Rwanda’s national parks following these events and the subsequent poisoning of lions by cattle herders resulted in the lions becoming extinct.

Prior to translocation, the five lionesses were held at &Beyond Phinda where they were fitted with satellite collars, which will enable the Akagera management team to monitor their movements and reduce the risk of them breaking out into neighbouring community areas. The collars have a two year life span, allowing ample time to monitor pride dynamics as the lions settle in. As an additional precaution, the park’s fence has been reinforced to keep the predators in.

&Beyond Phinda is also proud to have been home to one of the oldest lions known outside of a zoo. This female lion was introduced in May 1992 at age 18 months and died in September 2009 of injuries caused in a fight, when she was almost 20 years old.

In preparation for the translocation, the Akagera management team ran a comprehensive sensitisation programme in the communities surrounding the park, to educate the reserve’s neighbours about the significance of lions in the natural environment and promote harmonious co-existence.

WILDLIFETo begin their journey to Rwanda, the lionesses were tranquilised, placed in individual crates, loaded onto trucks and driven to Johannesburg. They were then loaded onto a charter flight and flown to Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, where they were transported by road to Akagera National Park. Throughout the journey, the lions were accompanied and monitored by an experienced veterinary team and kept tranquilised to reduce stress.

On arrival in Akagera, the lions were placed in a specially erected boma, split into two separate enclosures and surrounded by a three metre high fence. A water reserve was constructed within the boma and the lions fed every three to four days, replicating their natural feeding patterns.

&Beyond Phinda has a long history of lion conservation in South Africa, being one of the first private game reserves in South Africa and the first in the province of KwaZulu-Natal to introduce lions. Since the first 13 lions were introduced in 1992, almost 220 lions have been born on the reserve. &Beyond Phinda has helped establish other lion populations in private game reserves in the Eastern Cape, Zululand, Mpumalanga, North West and the Limpopo Province, as well as neighbouring Mozambique. The reserve is also a founding member of the Lion Management Forum of South Africa, which aims to promote best practice in lion management and conservation in Southern Africa, generating industry norms and standards for lion conservation.

Sandra Tiltman

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COMPANIES UNITE TO SAVE RHINOS

February 22, 2014

WILDLIFE

Wildlife on the African continent is constantly under threat from poachers and big game hunters.  The dwindling numbers mean many creatures have joined the endangered species list and are threatened with extinction.

Sydney’s current Wild in Art event by Taronga Zoo raises awareness of the critical plight facing rhinos. Colourful rhino sculptures painted by artists and their small calves decorated by local schools, are scattered around Sydney from February to April. This spectacular sculpture trail of 125 colourful rhino sculptures highlights the prospect that these magnificent creatures could be wiped out.

Phinda / Munyawana / Zuka Game ReserveRhino poaching in South Africa is at an all time high. In order to protect and save the species, two of Africa’s leading conservation companies, Great Plains Conservation and &Beyond, have joined forces to safely translocate up to 100 rhino from South Africa to the safe haven of Botswana.

“There is a battle for Africa’s wildlife raging as we speak. Rhinos are being poached at a rate of one every nine hours and the official number is 1,004 dead in 2013 alone. The unofficial number, because we simply do not find them all, is well over 1,000. Like everyone, I’ve been watching this desperate situation worsen, which is why Great Plains Conservation and &Beyond have decided to take action” said Dereck Joubert, Great Plains CEO.

Phinda PhotographJoss Kent, &Beyond CEO said “Botswana has an excellent security system in place to protect these endangered animals and will be a safe haven for the relocated rhino. Translocations are fundamental to secure the ongoing survival of endangered species and this ground-breaking project aims to protect the species for future generations to enjoy. A project this size requires a strong partnership and a huge resource pool to pull it off.”

Having successfully translocated six rhino from South Africa to Botswana last year, &Beyond’s conservation team will lend its expertise to the project. Up to 100 rhino will be captured and safely transported from South Africa and released in Botswana’s remote wilderness. Each rhino will be tagged and microchipped for research and monitoring purposes. A dedicated anti-poaching team using the latest technology will work in conjunction with Botswana government agencies to monitor the animals.

This operation will cost US$8 million and both Great Plains Conservation and &Beyond will announce fundraising initiatives to enable tourism stakeholders, travel partners, tour operators and guests to help save this iconic species and ensure Africa’s Big Five remain for future generations to enjoy.

&Beyond is one of the world’s leading luxury experiential travel companies, designing personalised luxury safaris in 15 African countries, as well as India, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

Great Plains Conservation uses tourism to support the economics of conservation and is continually recognised for its role in harmonising the needs of local communities and wildlife, providing havens for Africa’s wildlife and the ultimate in guest experience. Their seven camps in Botswana and Kenya are leaders in environmental sustainability and community partnership.

The battle to save the rhino from extinction will go on.

Sandra Tiltman