An extraordinary new video reveals the first camera trap footage of the Cross River gorilla, the world's rarest gorilla.
Although the video, shot by Wildlife Conservation Society conservationists in Cameroon's Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary, is only a few minutes long, it presents a vivid microcosm of these primates' lives - their suffering at the hands of humans, their struggle, but also their pride.
As the footage (see it below) begins, you can see one gorilla stopping briefly to rest under a tree, but then it's compelled to move forward by the troop. When another spots the camera trap, it briefly charges, Tarzan style, toward the screen, beating its chest.
Watching the footage, the connection to these magnificent animals, which are in turn so connected to us on the primate family tree, is undeniable. You can see how one gorilla has lost its hand, likely in a snare set by poachers, but the individual keeps moving and trying to survive. One can only wonder how hard that gorilla's life is now.
Fewer than 250 Cross River gorillas remain in the world. This video footage may be one of the last reminders of their existence. They are rarely observed by field researchers, so who knows when such footage will ever be captured again.
"This video gives us all a spectacular view into the hidden world of one of our closest relatives, which is in dire need of our help to survive," Steve Sanderson, WCS president and CEO, said in a press release.
Christopher Jameson, director of WCS's Takamanda-Mone Landscape Project, added, "The video represents the best images to date of Cross River gorillas, normally shy animals that flee at the slightest hint of human presence. The footage provides us with our first tantalizing glimpses of Cross River gorillas behaving normally in their environment. A person can study these animals for years and never even catch a glimpse of the gorillas, much less see anything like this."
The good news is that there is now increased patrolling in the region, hopefully preventing the placement of snares and other human-related problems.
"Cross River gorillas occur in very low densities across their entire range, so the appearance of a possible snare injury is a reminder that continued law enforcement efforts are needed to prevent further injuries to gorillas in the sanctuary," said Liz Macfie, gorilla coordinator for WCS's Species Program.
The government of Cameroon established the sanctuary in 2008, and it is supported by the WCS and locals. It's the only site in the world where daily monitoring of Cross River gorillas occurs.