The green border of Rwanda and Burundi will be chimp real estate, thanks to a pact between the two nations to safeguard the largest remaining block of mountain forest in East Africa. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) facilitated the agreement, signed in Huye, Rwanda on September 10, to help improve conservation in Rwanda’s Nyungwe National Park and Burundi’s Kibira National Park.

These parks, known as the Nyungwe-Kibira Landscape, form a contiguous protected area shared by the two nations. A variety of endangered primates, including chimpanzees and owl-faced monkeys, live in the area and travel freely between the parks.

The landscape is also threatened by illegal harvesting of bamboo and timber, along with mining of gold and coltan. Authorities in Rwanda and Burundi have informally discussed these issues for some time, but until now, there were 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 WCS. “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.”

The Nyungwe-Kibira Landscape is considered the most wildlife-rich ecosystem in the entire Albertine Rift. The rift is composed of a network of valleys in Uganda, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Tanzania that lie alongside some of Africa’s largest mountain ranges. WCS has been working here since the 1950s, supporting the conservation and creation of national parks. For the past several years, WCS has sought to improve trans-boundary collaboration between Rwanda and Burundi and will now help improve the region’s long-term conservation.

WCS work in this region has been supported by the MacArthur Foundation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.