Thursday, July 27, 2017
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Rhinos back in Rwanda

Rhino back in RwandaA decade after poachers wiped out its native population of rhino Rwanda has reintroduced the animals to its national parks flying a group of 10 from South Africa.

The group will live at Rwanda's Akagera National Park, protected by rangers trained in anti-poaching and an electric fence, authorities said.

Rhino horn, used as daggers and in traditional Asian medicine, is more expensive than gold or cocaine. It can sell for more than $50,000 per kg.

"The original rhinos disappeared because there were cases of poaching," Belise Kariza, chief tourism officer at Rwanda's development board, told Reuters.

"With rhinos reintroduced in Akagera National Park we now actually have a Big Five definition. Definitely, that’s going to attract the attention of tourists," she said, referring to Africa's Big Five - lion, elephant, buffalo, rhino and leopard.

Tourism is a key foreign exchange earner in East Africa. Rwanda, heavily dependent on foreign aid after the 1994 genocide, has been seeking to boost the sector.

Tourism generated $404 million from 1.3 million visitors in 2016 and revenues are expected to climb 14% to $460 million in 2017.

Jes Gruner, Akagera National Park manager, said the park was expecting nine more rhinos next week.

The rhino arrivals follow the successful reintroduction of lion into the park in 2015. The number of lions has increased from seven to 17.

"Right now we are going to focus on lion and rhino but another species that was wiped out from Akagera is the wild dog so it is something to be considered in future," Gruner said.

Endangered gorillas on the slopes of the Virunga Mountains are Rwanda's main tourist attraction, generating 90% of tourism revenues through trek permits, travel and accommodation.

Last year Akagera earned $1.3 million from 36,000 visitors.

Rwanda has to compete for tourists with regional heavyweights Kenya and Tanzania, both far bigger countries with better established tourist industries.