Friday, October 30, 1998 Published at 10:25 GMT
Caught in the crossfire
The mountain gorillas live in an area of fierce fighting
The World Wide Fund for Nature has warned that fighting in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo could have disastrous consequences for wildlife including the already endangered mountain gorillas and northern white rhinos.
The northern white rhinoceros is down to only 23 in number, while fewer than 600 mountain gorillas are left in the world.
Half of these live in the rugged volcanoes of Virunga Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the region where fighting by rebels trying to oust President Laurent Kabila's government is concentrated.
But the animals there could easily fall prey to profiteering amid the chaos of conflict.
Deborah Snelson, World Wildlife Fund representative in Nairobi, said: "Two mountain gorillas were killed last month and it could happen again any time, given the scale of the conflict."
Garamba, in northeastern Congo, has the last wild population of northern white rhinos, but all contact with managers and keepers of the wildlife park in the region has been lost.
"There is no telling what has happened ... to the rhinos," said Deborah Snelson.
The Fund said the increased presence of dangerous firearms and the disruption of conservation activities were a dangerous combination.