Cross River gorillas rank among the world's most endangered and elusive species. Numbering as few as 250 individuals, the rarest of African apes has scarcely been observed in the wild, even by those committed to studying their behavior. But now, for one of the first times ever, the Cross River gorilla's haunting beauty and incredible strength have been caught on film in the wild.
The clip seen below was recorded in the Cross River gorilla's dwindling habitat near Cameroon's border with Nigeria, a region hit hard by human encroachment and poaching. By installing motion-sensing camera traps in the forests, the Wildlife Conservation Society managed to capture this haunting scene of the gorillas in the wild -- and though a bit grainy, it might be the most candid peek behind the veil of mystery that still surrounds them.
"The footage provides us with our first tantalizing glimpses of Cross River gorillas behaving normally in their environment," says Christopher Jameson, director of the Takamanda Mone Landscape Project, to the Christian Science Monitor. "A person can study these animals for years and never even catch a glimpse of the gorillas, much less see anything like this."
In terms of wildlife footage obtained by such means, this recording is quite remarkable. More often than not, camera traps yield only fleeting glimpses of target species passing by the lens, leaving researchers with perhaps two or three clear frames with which to study. In this footage, however, eight gorillas linger for two long minutes. And, at 1:18 in the clip, a silverback male even charges towards the camera, pounding his chest in an intimidating display of strength.
Sadly, given the precarious state of Cross River gorillas in the wild, this rare footage could one day be all that remains of them for future generations.