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Learning English - Words in the News
08 October, 2007 - Published 11:18 GMT
Endangered gorillas in Congo
Gorillas (image: WildlifeDirect)

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, ten wild mountain gorillas have been killed since the beginning of the year. The conservation organisation Wildlife Direct says rebel troops have tried to force the wildlife rangers to join the fighting. This report from Peter Greste:

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The coincidence couldn't be more unfortunate. The forest that half the world's surviving mountain gorillas call home, also happened to be one of the most strategically important regions to rebels fighting government troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

An uneasy truce that had lasted for years finally broke down five weeks ago, forcing most of the wildlife rangers protecting the gorillas to flee to nearby towns. Some had been able to take advantage of a recent stalemate to return to the forests and monitor two gorilla families, but now all have been driven out. According to Wildlife Direct, which supports the rangers, the rebels even tried to force some to join their fight. Rangers sheltering in a nearby town reported hearing shelling and heavy gunfire from the forests.

Wildlife Direct's Samantha Newport said without the rangers the mountain gorillas are completely unprotected and unmonitored. There are only about seven hundred gorillas left in the wild; according to the last census, some three hundred and eighty of them in the eastern Congo. They aren't targets in this fight but according to Wildlife Direct they could so easily get caught in the crossfire. With so few left in the wild even one death represents a significant loss.

Peter Greste, BBC News, Johannesburg

Listen to the words

couldn't be more unfortunate
is very bad

call home
if you call a place home, you live there

strategically important
providing military forces with an advantage

uneasy truce
an agreement to stop fighting for a period of time that was difficult to reach and enforce

broke down
was brought to an end (by the resumed fighting)

wildlife rangers
people whose job is to protect a forest or natural park

driven out
forced to leave/to flee

in the wild
in their natural surroundings, not in a zoo

an official count (of a population or a class of things) for statistical purposes

get caught in the crossfire
be hurt or killed accidentally in the firing of bullets in two crossing directions simultaneously

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