New York (September 15, 2008) – The Wildlife Conservation Society announced that it has facilitated an agreement between the two nations of Rwanda and Burundi to safeguard the largest remaining block of mountain forest in East Africa.The agreement, which was signed in Huye, Rwanda on September 10th, will help improve conservation in Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park and Burundi’s Kibira National Park. The two parks, known as the Nyungwe-Kibira Landscape, form a contiguous protected area shared by both nations and contain a large variety of endangered primates including chimpanzees, rare owl-faced monkeys, and other species found no where else on earth.Most of species found in these areas move freely between both parks, underscoring the need for trans-boundary collaboration. The landscape is also becoming increasingly threatened by illegal harvesting of bamboo and timber, along with mining of gold and coltan. Authorities of Rwanda and Burundi have informally discussed these issues for some time. But until now, there have been no formal agreements to protect the greater Nyungwe-Kibira Landscape. “We commend Rwanda and Burundi for collaborating to protect and conserve these vulnerable species, which both nations have the privilege to share,” said Dr. Steven E. Sanderson, President and CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society. “Trans-boundary conservation offers unique challenges, but also unique opportunities to safeguard wildlife on a regional, international scale. Burundi and Rwanda are clearly leading the way in Eastern Africa on this front.”Rosette Chantal Rugamba, Director General for Rwanda’s Office of Tourism and National Parks, said, “The event is a great achievement that will allow us to lessen threats that have been undermining the integrity of the landscape for ages due to lack concerted vision and strategies.”Ntungumburanye Adelin, Director General of Burundi’s National Institute for the Environment and Conservation of Nature, said, “It has taken long to reach today’s event. But this signature is the only beginning of a long journey, as there is much more to be done.”The agreement comes as a result of several years of work by WCS to help improve trans-boundary collaboration between both nations and will help improve long-term conservation of the region. According to WCS, the signed agreement will accelerate collaboration to a much higher level and will help guarantee the long-term conservation of the region and its wildlife.The Nyungwe-Kibira Landscape is considered the most wildlife-rich ecosystem in the entire Albertine Rift – a network of valleys in Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Tanzania that lie alongside some of Africa’s largest mountain ranges. The rift itself is considered one of Africa’s most important areas for conservation.The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has been working in the Albertine Rift since the 1950s, supporting the conservation and establishment of national parks. WCS work in this region has been supported by the MacArthur Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
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