World’s Rarest Gorilla Caught On Film [VIDEO]

By Amir Khan on May 10, 2012 2:17 PM EDT

Cross River Gorilla
Cameras setup deep in Cameroon's Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary captured the first known footage of the rarest gorilla species in the world, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. (Photo: Creative Commons)

 

Cameras setup deep in Cameroon's Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary captured the first known footage of the rarest gorilla species in the world, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. The footage shows several Cross River gorillas, an extremely rare species with only 250 still alive.

"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, president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said in a statement.

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The Cameroon government established the sanctuary in 2003 to protect the endangered gorilla. But Cross River gorillas are shy and flee from humans, so sightings are exceedingly rare.

The video features several of the gorillas in their natural state, something that researchers haven't observed before. While it may not be particularly remarkable,  just seeing the animals is a particular treat, researchers said.

"The video represents the best images to date of Cross River gorillas, normally shy animals that flee at the slightest hint of human presence," Christopher Jameson, Director of WCS's Takamanda Mone Landscape Project, which helps preserve the gorilla's habitat, said in a statement. "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."

Cross River gorillas are the rarest gorillas in the world and are listed as "Critically Endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The gorillas are threatened by a shrinking habitat and poaching, according to the WCS. While traditional beliefs stop local residents from hunting the gorillas, the animals are frequently hurt by snares set out to catch other forest animals.

"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 WCS said it hopes that people seeing the rare animal will make them want to protect it better.

"Spectacular footage such as this, which we've never had before for Cross River gorillas, is absolutely vital to inspire local people, the governments of Nigeria and Cameroon, and the global community to care about and to save this unique subspecies," Dr. James Deutsch, executive director for WCS's Africa Program, said in a statement. "Continued research of this kind will help fine-tune management plans to protect this rarest of apes."

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