Camera Trap Video Offers Rare Glimpse of World’s Rarest Gorilla

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on May 9th, 2012

From Press Release

First camera trap video footage of Cross River gorillas reveals candid behaviors of elusive animals and threat of poaching

NEW YORK (May 8, 2012)—Conservationists working in Cameroon’s Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary have collected the first camera trap video footage of the Cross River gorilla. With fewer than 250 individuals remaining, Cross River gorillas are the world’s rarest gorilla and a notoriously elusive species rarely observed directly by field researchers.

Collected from one of four video camera traps set up by researchers in the protected area, the footage reveals eight Cross River gorillas casually making their way along a forest path.

“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,” said Steve Sanderson, WCS President and CEO.

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.”

Running at almost two minutes in length, the video begins with the entry of one gorilla, which sits at the base of a tree while others emerge from the dense forest. At one point, a male silverback appears, surveying the area (and perhaps aware of the camera) before running past the camera lens giving a classic “chest-beating” display. Another gorilla (appearing in the footage at around 1:18 in the sequence) appears to be missing a hand, a healed injury but a disquieting indicator of the presence of snares within the family group’s range in the past before increased patrolling in the now-protected area.

“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 Dr. Liz Macfie, Gorilla Coordinator for WCS’s Species Program.

The Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary was established by the government of Cameroon in 2008 for the sole purpose of protecting the Cross River gorilla and evolved out of the “Gorilla Guardian” community network, created by WCS to improve gorilla survival prospects in the most vulnerable unprotected forest sites in Cameroon. The sanctuary is now managed by a conservator (chief warden) assisted by two ecoguards, all appointed by the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF), and a strong team of local staff from the eight villages near the protected area. Kagwene is the only site where daily monitoring of Cross River gorilla movements takes place.

“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,” said Dr. James Deutsch, Executive Director for WCS’s Africa Program. “Continued research of this kind will help fine-tune management plans to protect this rarest of apes.”

The Cross River gorilla is the rarest of the four subspecies of gorilla, with fewer than 250 individuals remaining across its entire range, limited to the remote forested mountainous terrain on the border region of Nigeria and Cameroon. The subspecies is listed as “Critically Endangered” and is threatened by both habitat destruction and hunting, as the entire population lives in a region of high human population density and heavy natural resource exploitation. Local community residents in the area surrounding Kagwene do not directly hunt Cross River gorillas due to traditional beliefs, but they do set snares for other forest animals, and these could occasionally injure gorillas.

Key support for the creation of the sanctuary was provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which also provided funding for the camera traps and other monitoring equipment. Other support for the project came from: Pro Wildlife; Berggorilla; and World Wide Fund for Nature. In Cameroon, WCS works in cooperation with the Ministry of Forests and Wildlife (MINFOF).

Additional supporters for Cross River gorilla conservation in both Cameroon and Nigeria include: the governments of Cameroon and Nigeria; North Carolina Zoological Society; the Arcus Foundation; KfW (German Development Bank); International Union of the Conservation of Nature’s SOS Program; Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation; Columbus Zoo and Aquarium; the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – Great Apes Survival Partnership; UNEP – Convention on Migratory Species; The Gorilla Organization; National Geographic Society; Fauna and Flora International; Pandrillus; the Environment and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF); Cleveland Zoological Society; Kolmarden Zoo; Taronga Zoo; and World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA).

JOHN DELANEY: 1-718-220-3275;
STEPHEN SAUTNER: 1-718-220-3682;

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad, Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster, Animal Planet's Finding Bigfoot: Return to Boggy Creek and Beast of the Bayou.

10 Responses to “Camera Trap Video Offers Rare Glimpse of World’s Rarest Gorilla”

  1. watn6789 responds:

    Very cool footage

  2. Hapa responds:

    When the article her started it called the Cross River Gorilla “A Notoriously elusive species”. Only later did they correctly note that is a subspecies of Gorilla, not a “species” of Gorilla (there is 2 species of Gorilla, but four subspecies, two in each species (used to be one species consisting of three subspecies: Eastern Lowland, Western Lowland, and Mountain Gorillas, but they removed the subspecies designation of the Mountain Gorilla, lumping it with the eastern Lowland Gorilla into the new species designation “Eastern Gorilla”. The Cross River Gorilla and the Western Lowland Gorilla are under the species moniker “Western Gorilla”)

    Check the following sites on Gorillas, note the subspecies/species divisions, especially where it notes the Cross River Gorilla:

    Also check out:

    Gorillas: a portrait of the animal world, by Jill M. Caravan, page 15

    Smithsonian Institution: ANIMAL, by David Burnie and Don E. Wilson (General Editors), page 135

  3. Peter Von Berg responds:

    Now THIS is the type of quality video we need of a Bigfoot.

  4. Hapa responds:

    I heard a while back that some researchers believe that Sasquatch can detect trap cams based on the ability to see in either Ultra Violet or something like that, and that was an explanation why so few super good trail or trap cam photos (one good exception: the Jacobs photos) are made of Sasquatch: they can supposedly spot them and evade detection. Sounds quite farfetched (let the snickers ensue), but if primates could actually spot one, at least in daytime with ease, this vid should have showed that.

    Though one of the females, when leaning on a tree, looked in the direction of the camera (made me think of those creepy scenes in “Bryan Loves You”, when no matter how well the characters hid the spy cams the cult members always could spot it, even from a distance), I didn’t see her or the others looking at it closely or coming to examine the cam, displaying natural Primate curiosity (In one film I saw a while back, two bachelor male Gorillas saw an owl nearby. When they tried to catch it/examine it, the owl kept flying away).

    The question is, can non-human primates spot or somehow sense a trail or trap cam at nighttime?

  5. Hapa responds:


    Here is a cryptomundo blog which had some discussion about the hypothesis that Sasquatch can detect trail/trap cams by seeing the infrared they use to work (repeat: Infrared, not UV)

  6. Desertdweller responds:

    One of the gorillas appears to be missing a hand. The author assumes it is the result of being snared.

    If gorillas attack like chimpanzees, ripping off a hand would be a standard offensive move. Chimpanzees seem to prefer to render their opponents helpless prior to killing them.

    Do gorillas behave like chimpanzees? Could the gorilla have been the victim of an encounter with a chimpanzee?

    The big one demonstrating and running past the camera was quite impressive.

    It was also interesting to see how much the gorillas depended on both hands and feet for locomotion. They could move bipedaly, but preferred not to, much like a roadrunner prefers running to flying.

  7. Hapa responds:


    No, Gorillas and Chimps do behave differently, such as when it comes to diet (chimps are omnivorous, Gorillas are herbivorous (save for eating grubs), warfare (Chimps are masters of it, while Gorillas, aside from disputes between Silverbacks (usually one who has his own Gorilla troop versus another who wants that troop for themselves) do not), Cannibalism (Chimps do it, Gorillas don’t), And recently, the use of “weapons” (Chimps where shown recently to make pointed little sticks to stab at prey in trees. Gorillas don’t hunt), etc. They are not entirely different in behavior, but they have their significant differences.

    Could the female Gorilla missing a hand have been attacked by a Chimp? I doubt a Chimpanzee, even the big males, would risk attacking a Female Gorilla, due to the fact that they are usually bigger than chimps, let alone a Silverback, which would pounce on anyone attacking a female. A Silverback can kill a leopard with one blow to the head (Leopards hunt and kill far smaller gorillas and chimps). Unlike other Gorillas which sleep in trees, Silverbacks sleep on the forest floor unprotected, because nothing (save for poachers) are brave/stupid/capable of attacking one, even asleep.

    A group of Male Chimps against an enraged Silverback…The former wouldn’t live to tell the tale. Against a Female Gorilla unprotected or babies, yes they could harm or kill the latter, but even if this happened to the Gorilla in question, most likely the Silverback, if it got there in time, would drive the chimps off. They keep a good watch out for trouble.

    I have never heard or read about any gorilla/chimp violence. I think I heard about them avoiding each other or the Chimps giving the Gorillas a wide berth, but it was a long time ago, I can’t remember which.

  8. DWA responds:

    OK, that sound when the silverback beat his chest was way cool.

    As was this vid. A day after Spanish giant pandas with reverse coloration. Nothing like Cryptomundo.

  9. DWA responds:

    Thoughts on camera traps:

    1. The silverback may have scented or seen evidence of human disturbance.

    2. Animals on their territories are by necessity very sensitive to changes. You might notice if a corner street sign had been rotated 30 degrees. An animal might notice an odd or “off” scent or a substantial object on a tree, or a vegetation disturbance, that wasn’t there before.

    3. We know, accept and act upon all evidence we see of gorillas. We don’t doubt it; we set cameras up to catch them based on things we see, and automatically trust, when they aren’t there.

    When sasquatch trace evidence is trusted and cameras set up accordongly – and the effort is funded and tended to like this effort has been, and note that this is the first footage they’ve gotten – we’ll get footage.

    It just isn’t logical to expect anything conclusive by now for an effort to which virtually no full-time work has been devoted.

    (For an animal whose population density makes these gorillas look abundant by comparison.)

  10. red_pill_junkie responds:

    Looks ‘shopped


Sorry. Comments have been closed.

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