23 June 2019

Rwanda: Rhinos From Czech Zoo Go Back to the Wild in Rwanda

Five black rhinos are expected to be flown into the Akagera National Park in Rwanda from the Czech Republic, with Kigali eyeing more tourism revenues.

The translocation of the critically-endangered species was announced last week by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB).

The rhinos, expected on June 23, were born and raised in a zoo and will be nurtured before being released into the wild.

"The translocation of five rhinos from European zoos to Rwanda will further enhance the natural ecosystem in Akagera National Park," said Clare Akamanzi, CEO of RDB. "Today, poaching is almost non-existent in our four national parks, and we are confident that these rhinos will thrive in their natural habitat. They are a positive addition to Akagera, a park where tourists can now visit to see the African Big Five."

In 2017, 17 rhinos were flown into Akagera Park from South Africa, bringing back the species 10 years after it had disappeared from Rwanda due to poaching.

The rhinos, Jasiri, Jasmina and Manny were born in Dvur Kralove in the Czech Republic; Olmoti comes from Flamingo Land in the UK and Mandela is from Ree Park Safari in Denmark, African parks said on its website. The three females and two males, aged between two and nine, are part of the EAZA Ex-situ Programme and have been donated to RDB, which, together with African Parks, manages Akagera park.

The country also reintroduced lions -- also from South Africa in 2015 -- after they had disappeared from the country for about 15 years.

Rwanda recorded a drop of about 12 per cent in tourism revenues in 2018, from the $438 million reported in 2017, an official from the Ministry of Statistics told The EastAfrican.

Now the country hopes to receive more tourists and more income from a sector hit by travel advisories issued by European countries last year after a series of attacks by rebels in Rwanda's Nyungwe region.

The RDB declined to provide the exact revenue figures from tourism for 2018.

"There are so many things that still need to be validated. Usually it is just us who work on it, but now there are many other different players," said Sunny Ntayombya, head of communications at RDB.

"We are going through a validation exercise, which is almost done. When it is done, we are going to call a press conference with all the institutions that worked on the numbers. At the press conference, we will help the media to understand our methodology and also the numbers," he added.

The decline in tourism receipts, however, did not affect the country's revenues from meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE tourism), which fetched $55 million in 2018, up from $42 million in 2017. This, however, is below the $74 million that RDB hoped to fetch from MICE tourism in 2018.

In May 2017, Rwanda raised the price for gorilla permits to $1,500 for all visitors, from a previous $750 for international tourists and $300 for locals and those from the region.

Tanzania is the region's leader in tourism revenues, fetching $2.43 billion in 2018 up from $2.2 billion the previous year.

Kenya got about $1.6 billion in revenues for 2018, an increase of 31 per cent from the previous year, while Uganda raked in over $1.4 billion.

In May last year, Rwanda signed a three-year sponsorship deal with English football club Arsenal -- worth about $30 million -- and launched its "Visit Rwanda" campaign aimed to boost tourist attractions.

In 2018, Kigali was ranked Africa's second most popular destination for international conferences and events by the International Congress and Convention Association, after Cape Town in South Africa.

Twenty-six international conferences were hosted in Kigali, helping the country to record over 38,000 delegates in 2018, up from 28,000 delegates in 2017.

The country targets to collect $800 million and receive over 2.2 million arrivals by 2024, buoyed largely by the continued focus on MICE tourism, which brings in about 20 percent of the total tourism receipts.

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