, September 16, 2008 (ENS) - The two African nations of Rwanda and Burundi, enmeshed in tribal killings for decades, have signed an agreement to safeguard the largest remaining block of mountain forest in East Africa. The area is inhabited by endangered primates such as chimpanzees, rare owl-faced monkeys, and other species found nowhere else on Earth.
Blue valleys of Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda (Photo by Juha-Pekka)
The New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society facilitated the agreement, which was signed in Huye, Rwanda on September 10.
"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 Sanderson, president and chief executive of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
"Trans-boundary conservation offers unique challenges, but also unique opportunities to safeguard wildlife on a regional, international scale," he said. "Burundi and Rwanda are clearly leading the way in Eastern Africa on this front."
Rwanda and Burundi representatives applaud the new agreement. From left: Penelope Kantarama, governor of Western Province, Rwanda; Rosette Chantal Rugamba, director general of Rwanda’s Office of Tourism and National Parks; Fidele Ndayisaba, governor of Southern Province, Rwanda; Ntungumburanye Adelin, director general National Institute for the Environment and Conservation of Nature Burundi; and Nduwimana Sonnel, representing three Burundi governors. (Photo courtesy WCS)
The agreement is intended to 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 single protected area shared by both nations.
Most species move freely between the parks, underscoring the need for trans-boundary collaboration.
The landscape is increasingly threatened by illegal harvesting of bamboo and timber, along with mining of gold and coltan. A derivative of coltan is used in consumer electronics products such as cell phones, DVD players, and computers.
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.
At the signing ceremony, 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 of 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 is the result of years of work by the Wildlife Conservation Society, a global conservation organization based at New York's Bronx Zoo.
A rare owl-faced monkey (Photo by Tyler Massey)
Dr. Sanderson says 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.
According to the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Nyungwe-Kibira Landscape is inhabited by more wildlife species than anywhere else in the 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.
Supported by the MacArthur Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wildlife Conservation Society has been working in the Albertine Rift since the 1950s to advance conservation and establishment of national parks.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.
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