World's Rarest Gorilla Captured on Video

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The world's most camera shy great ape has just been captured on video, marking only the second time that the elusive Cross River gorilla has been filmed, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society and Germany's NDR Naturfilm.

(Credit: @NDR Naturfilm)

"These gorillas are extremely wary of humans and are very difficult to photograph or film," said Dr. Roger Fotso, Director of the WCS's Cameroon Program. "Eventually we identified and staked out some of the gorillas favorite fig trees, which is where we finally achieved our goal."

"It's unbelievable that one great ape subspecies has never been filmed for TV so far," said Jorn Rover, Head of NDR Naturfilm. "We hope that our international production helps to raise awareness for these magnificent creatures and the work of the WCS."

Fewer than 300 of the critically endangered gorillas are left in the world. As Fotso indicated, the gorillas were filmed feeding on figs 30 to 40 feet above the forest floor. It took weeks of searching before the research team found the rare primates in the Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary, which is located on a forested mountain in Cameroon. 

These gorillas continue to be hunted for their meat, while farming, road-building, and human-caused forest burning have greatly reduced the size of their forest habitat.

Previously, the only known footage of the Cross River gorilla was taken by a field researcher in 2005 with a shaky, hand-held camera.

It's estimated that just 16 of the great apes live at the Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary, which is 19.5 square kilometers in size. But scientists say even this tiny grouping of primates represents a genetically important segment of the entire Cross River gorilla population.

"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 the Wildlife Conservation Society's Africa Program. "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."

To view the footage, please visit this WCS site.