Page last updated at 23:48 GMT, Monday, 26 January 2009

DR Congo gorilla numbers growing

By Marcus George
BBC News

Gorillas in Virunga National Park
The violence has made protecting gorillas a dangerous job

The population of threatened mountain gorillas in eastern DR Congo is now growing, local wildlife officials say.

According to a census carried out by rangers in the Virunga National Park, 10 baby gorillas have been born in the last 18 months.

The park population now stands at 81, and there are only 700 of mountain gorillas left in the world.

In 2007, 10 gorillas were killed when fighting between rebels and government soldiers spilled into the park.

The violence has made protecting gorillas a dangerous job.

The park's director, Emmanuel de Merode, says 120 rangers have been killed since the conflict began, the last only two weeks ago.

Part of the reason why the rangers are so exposed to the dangers is because they continue their work whatever the situation.

Over much of that time, they have not received their salaries and they have received very little support, so it makes it a very difficult job.

Amazingly, the census reported no gorilla deaths. But the number of snares laid by poachers has increased significantly.

And groups who enter the park to cut down trees for the production of charcoal are another major threat. So despite the good news, the rangers' work remains critical.

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