Rwanda will import lions and rhinos from South Africa next year to help restock the country’s wildlife population, a Rwandan official told AFP. Widespread poaching and devastating conflict have decimated much of the lion and rhino populations in Rwanda.
But South Africa is facing its own poaching crisis, as well. Statistics from the World Wildlife Federation show that 341 rhinos were killed in the first 10 months of 2011 in South Africa. The number is a record for rhinos killed by poachers, according to the charity.
In another disturbing record, Hong Kong customs officers recently seized 190 lbs of rhino horns hidden in a shipment from Cape Town, South Africa. The seizure was the largest ever in Hong Kong.
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Rhinos are believed to have medicinal properties in some Asian countries, according to PBS.
The lions and rhinos will be sent to Rwanda’s Akagera park, which is currently home to only one rhino. Lions disappeared from the park when refugees returning home after the 1994 genocide temporarily lived in the area, AFP reported.
“We have began fencing the park. The work will be finished in February 2012 and after that the reintroduction of these species will be one of priorities,” tourism director Rica Rwigamba told AFP. He did not specify how many animals will be imported.
Highly endangered mountain gorillas are currently Rwanda’s main tourist attraction. The animals are mostly located in the Virunga Mountains along the border between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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