As part of the Lake Victoria regional mosaic of habitats, the Akagera National Park in eastern Rwanda is a spectacular landscape of rolling hills, Acacia and Combretum woodlands, grasslands, and swamps and lakes that follow the meandering course of the Akagera River. The park was established in 1934 to protect an area covering 2,500 square kilometers (965 square miles) By the 1960s, the Park formed part of a much larger ecosystem that included Uganda’s Kikagati Game Reserve, Lake Mburo National Park, and rangeland areas north to the Katonga River. Across the Akagera River to the east, the ecosystem extended into Tanzania’s Ibanda and Rumanyika Game Reserves, with corridors of relatively unsettled wood and bushland linking these areas to the Biharamulo and Burigi Game Reserves farther south, between Lake Victoria and the Rwanda border.
The Akagera-Lake Mburo ecosystem has its own characteristic fauna, with some notable occurrences and absences of species. Topi are found here, but hartebeest are not.. Zebra were, once numerous, but have never been recorded in nearby Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda’s Albertine Rift Valley. Impala are common in the ecosystem, and the impala’s range does not overlap that of the Uganda kob, found in the Albertine Rift protected areas, 60 kilometers to the northwest. This ecosystem harbors a remnant population of roan antelope, present in very low numbers in Akagera and, sadly, now extirpated from Uganda’s Lake Mburo. More than 500 bird species have been recorded in Akagera National Park, including the rare shoe-billed stork; the park can boast one of the most diverse avifaunas on the African continent.
Today, the Akagera-Lake Mburo ecosystem is fragmented and its wildlife populations are confined to small, disturbed enclaves. And Lake Mburo National Park, which is surrounded by cattle ranches, has been reduced to 371 square kilometers. Uganda’s.Katonga Wildlife Reserve is also isolated by surrounding villages, and its wildlife populations have been virtually extirpated. On the Tanzania side, human settlements block wildlife corridors to Biharamulo and Burigi. Thus, the protection of Akagera is critically important for the conservation of the remnants of this unique and diverse biotic community.