Only 720 mountain gorillas remain in the wild, all of them in the misty hills of central Africa. Efforts to protect the critically endangered mountain gorilla received a big boost on Wednesday when Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo agreed to cooperate on a 10-year conservation plan for the animals. Only 720 mountain gorillas remain in the wild, all of them in the misty hills of central Africa where the three countries' borders meet. In the past 14 months, at least 10 gorillas have been killed in Congo's Virunga park by rebel fighters and people involved in the illegal charcoal trade. Despite the apes' vulnerability, conflict and mistrust among the countries has previously prevented formal cooperative efforts to stop the poaching and stem human encroachment. But in a joint statement on Wednesday, wildlife officials said their park authorities would work together "to ensure the conservation of the mountain gorillas and their Afromontane forest habitat.' Moses Mapesa, head of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, told a news conference in Kampala: "For the first time, the three countries have decided to protect the great apes which are threatened with extinction and insecurity in the region.' More than a decade of human conflict has damaged tourism in eastern Congo, but for Uganda and Rwanda the gorillas are still a prime attraction, with visitors paying

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Civil war in Rwanda has claimed 500,000 lives, but it has spared 60 rare gorillas in the Virunga mountains, a big draw for tourists in the past 15 years. A recent census has accounted for all but 2

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