Ak­agera park teems with birds and wildlife

The East African - - THE MAGAZINE -

“The pop­u­la­tion of lions in the park is ris­ing faster than we ex­pected,” said Joseph Karama, Ak­agera Park’s com­mu­nity li­ai­son man­ager. “The park can hold up to 30,000 lions. We could reach th­ese numbers sooner than ex­pected.”

The cur­rent lion pop­u­la­tion is just over 20, up from the seven that were rein­tro­duced in 2015.

Wildlife is thriv­ing in Rwanda’s Ak­agera Na­tional Park, lo­cated in East­ern Prov­ince. From birdlife, to her­bi­vores and car­ni­vores, an­i­mals abound. It is said that there are more than 500 bird species in Ak­agera. Our guide Pen­i­nah said she has spot­ted 320 in her 14 years of work­ing at the park.

On an evening boat ride in Lake Ihema last week, the African fish ea­gle and the African darter were plen­ti­ful. Hip­pos in the lake warned us not to ap­proach by bar­ing their teeth.

On a game drive the fol­low­ing day, the frisky im­pala were out and about, the wa­ter­buck cu­ri­ous about the ve­hi­cle pass­ing through their ter­ri­tory. Driv­ing down Mu­tumba Hill, one of the high­est points in the park, we spot­ted a vul­ture.

“This means there’s a lion close by,” Pen­i­nah an­nounced. We looked around — noth­ing.

We stopped for lunch at the hippo pic­nic site. Qui­etly munch­ing our sand­wiches, watch­ing the hip­pos snort loudly and con­tem­plat­ing when the rain clouds hov­er­ing across the bor­der in Tan­za­nia would reach us, we heard a loud trum­pet­ing from be­hind a bush to the right. An ele­phant was close by. Not wait­ing for it to ap­pear, I quickly made my way back to the car. But Pen­i­nah and the oth­ers in the group stayed out­side, seem­ingly un­fazed. I in­quired if there re­ally was an ele­phant close by.

“Yes,” Pen­i­nah replied. “We’re just wait­ing to see if it will come out of the bush.” I stood by war­ily, and was re­lieved that it chose to re­main hid­den.

Re­ports of lion sight­ings, close to where we had seen the vul­ture, sent us back the way we had come. Ly­ing across the road was a male, about two and a half years old. He seemed unim­pressed by our in­ter­rupt­ing his af­ter­noon nap. He got up and went to lie in the grass with his sis­ter and brother. We watched each other for about 10 min­utes, un­til, bored, the lions saun­tered away.

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