Rare Footage of the Rarest Ape

December 15, 2009

WCS releases the first high-quality footage of Cross River gorillas in the wild, produced by Germany’s NDR Naturfilm after weeks spent in Cameroon’s Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary.

The world’s rarest—and most camera shy—great ape has finally been captured on professional video. A crew from the Hamburg-based NDR Naturfilm managed to film the elusive Cross River gorilla on a forested mountainside in Cameroon earlier this year. The crew spent weeks trekking through the Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary, with assistance from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)’s Cameroon Program. WCS helped create this protected area for the Cross River gorilla in 2008.

The only previous footage available of Cross River gorillas was taken by a field researcher using a shaky, hand-held camera and from a long distance in 2005. “It’s unbelievable that one great ape subspecies has never been filmed for TV so far,” said Jörn Röver, head of NDR Naturfilm.
 
But Dr. Roger Fotso, director of WCS-Cameroon, explained that the Cross River gorilla is a natural introvert. “These gorillas are extremely wary of humans and are very difficult to photograph or film,” he said. “Eventually, we identified and staked out some of the gorillas’ favorite fig trees, which is where we finally achieved our goal.”

Due to the steep mountain terrain, tracking gorillas in Kagwene is time-consuming and sometimes treacherous. Through the years, WCS researchers have developed an effective non-invasive monitoring system aimed at keeping tabs on the gorillas without disturbing them or getting them used to people. The film crew’s footage features several minutes of two gorillas feeding on figs some 30–40 feet above the forest floor.

“These extraordinary images are vital for the fight to save the world’s least known and rarest ape as well as the mountain rainforest on which they depend,” said Dr. James Deutsch, Director of WCS-Africa. “Over the past twenty years, local communities, the governments of Cameroon and Nigeria, funders, and committed conservationists have laid the foundation for a great conservation success story. We hope these pictures will introduce to the world the lead players in this story, the Cross River gorillas themselves.”

Funders for efforts to conserve Cross River gorillas include the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (the German Development Bank), the Arcus Foundation, WWF, the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation, the Taronga Foundation, the Kolmarden Fundraising Foundation, and the North Carolina Zoo.

Learn More
Read about the Cross River Gorilla.
Learn about Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary.
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