About 15 percent of the hotspot (approximately 154,132 km²) is under some level of official protection, although this includes a number of areas that have limited protection or have not yet been officially gazetted. When only protected areas in IUCN categories I to IV are included, the level of protection drops to under 6 percent (about 60,000 km²).
In the Eastern Arc Mountains, there is one national park, the 1,900-km² Udzungwa Mountains National Park, a portion of another national park, one government nature reserve, one private nature reserve, and a small research reserve owned by the University of Dar es Salaam. Other than these areas, the majority of remaining forest is within forest reserves, mostly managed by the central government for water catchment purposes. A few private forests, mainly on tea estates, are managed for conservation. In February 2002, the Government of Tanzania announced that 13,500 hectares of Kitulo Plateau will be gazetted as a new national park, significantly increasing protection for endemic plants, particularly orchids.
A number of international agencies are contributing to conservation in the Eastern Arc Mountains, including the World Bank, which is helping to build management capacity and develop a Forest Agency in Tanzania, and the Global Environment Facility-United Nations Development Program, which is investing in the development of a holistic conservation strategy for the region. Other bilateral donors include the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), Finnish International Development Agency (Global Finland), and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). Several NGOs are also working on conservation in the region, including the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group, World Wide Fund for Nature, the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania, Birdlife International, Nature Kenya, and Conservation International. In 2004, the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) approved $7 million in funding for biodiversity research and conservation in the area. During the development of CEPF, Nature Kenya and the Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania with support from the University of Dar es Salaam identified Key Biodiversity Areas for the Eastern Arc Mountains, Taita Hills and Mt. Kisagau to ensure that investments were targeted in the most appropriate places for conservation in the region. Important Bird Areas have been identified as site scale conservation targets in the remaining portions of the hotspot by BirdLife International and their national partners.
Nearly 12 percent of the Albertine Rift is protected in parks, game reserves, and forest reserves. The largest of these protected areas is the 8,000-km² Virunga National Park, which links with Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, and Queen Elizabeth, Rwenzori Mountains, and Semuliki National Parks in Uganda to form the 12,800-km² Greater Virunga Landscape. Other important areas in the Albertine Rift include the as-yet-unprotected Itombwe Massif, the 6,000-km² Kahuzi-Biega National Park in the DRC, Kibale and Bwindi Impenetrable National Parks in Uganda, and Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda. Virunga, Rwenzori Mountains, Bwindi Impenetrable and Kahuzi-Biega are all World Heritage Sites.
Since 2001, a process supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has sought to develop a strategic framework for conservation and joint planning for protected areas in the Albertine Rift. This process brings together NGOs, protected area authorities, and government ministries in each country. The Congo Basin Forest Partnership, an association of 29 governmental agencies and NGOs that was formed in 2002, is working to promote sustainable management of Congo Basin Forest ecosystems and wildlife, and to improve the lives of people living there.
Transboundary conservation initiatives are also an important strategy in the Albertine Rift. The International Gorilla Conservation Programme, a coalition formed in 1991 by the African Wildlife Foundation, Fauna and Flora International, and WWF, has worked to encourage coordination and joint management among Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC, even when they were at war. This model has been replicated by the WCS further north in the Greater Virunga Landscape. Linkages of other parks in the area may also be possible.
In the Ethiopian Highlands, the Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Organization (EWCO) was established in 1964 with the assistance of international conservation organizations. The EWCO is plagued by a lack of resources and legislation that has been impossible to enforce. Although a system of conservation areas was proposed to form the basis of wildlife conservation in the country, only two of the planned 14 national parks and sanctuaries have been legally constituted, namely Awash National Park and Simien Mountains National Park. Even these two parks are not adequately secured, staffed or equipped. These difficulties have been exacerbated by famines, refugee problems, civil unrest, armed rebellions, and war, which threaten the livelihoods of people and make it unlikely that conservation measures will be implemented.
The most important of the conservation areas in Ethiopia is the Bale Mountains National Park, which while a formal national park it is yet to be officially gazetted. This Key Biodiversity Area harbors the finest and most intact remnants of the highlands’ original vegetation. These mountains are also home to four threatened endemic species, and to more than half of the global population of the Ethiopian wolf. The Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program (EWCP) has been working in the Bale Mountains for several decades to secure the conservation of areas of Afroalpine ecosystem; assess, address and counteract threats to the wolf’s survival; and enhance the focus on and strength of the environmental sector in Ethiopia.