WORLD : Only 310 Mountain Gorillas Left

FROM TIMES WIRE SERVICES

The mountain gorilla will be extinct by the end of the century if action is not taken now to protect it, Rwandan Foreign Minister Casmir Bizimungu told an international conference on gorillas, official Radio Rwanda reported today.

The weeklong First International Gorilla Protection Fair opened Monday in Kigali, Rwanda, the tiny east African country that is home to most of the world's 310 mountain gorillas. The purpose of the conference is to broaden public awareness of the gorilla's plight, said the broadcast, monitored in Nairobi.

"We must preserve the gorillas' natural habitat," Bizimungu said. "If urgent steps are not taken to protect mountain gorillas against poachers, they will no longer exist in Rwanda by the end of the century," the broadcast noted.

The minister praised the work of American zoologist Dian Fossey, who dedicated her life to studying gorillas and protecting them from poachers. But he said such individual efforts are not enough.

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