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Rwanda park releases relocated lions to restock population

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Seven lions that were transported from South Africa to Rwanda have been released into a wildlife park after weeks of quarantine, another step in a plan to restore the country’s lion population after it was wiped out following Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, the park’s managers said Tuesday.

The lions left an enclosure a day earlier and were being monitored through their satellite collars, said Sarah Hall, tourism and marketing manager for Akagera National Park in Rwanda. The five lionesses had been walking together along a road while the two males were “more cautious” and staying closer to the enclosure, she said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

The Akagera park is managed by African Parks, a Johannesburg-based group. Cattle herders poisoned Rwanda’s last lions about 15 years ago after the park was left unmanaged in the genocide’s wake. Returning refugees took over much of the park, reducing its size by more than half.

In late June, African Parks oversaw the transportation of the seven lions to Rwanda by truck and plane from two South African wildlife reserves in a complex operation that took about 30 hours.

The lions, which come from different prides, include a 10-year-old mother and her 1-year-old daughter. The males are three and four years old and are unrelated, according to African Parks. In quarantine, the lions were fed every two to three days with impala carcasses.

Akagera already has predators, including leopards and hyenas, Hall said. She predicted that the newly arrived lions would have a relatively easy time hunting prey, particularly among the park’s older animals.

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