They are the largest primates and our closest relatives, yet so much about wild gorillas still remains a mystery. Scientists are only just discovering how different some species of gorillas are in both looks and behaviour. How is this possible?
‘Gorillas Close Up’ follows researchers on their hazardous journeys into remote areas of Africa to make contact with the four different types of Gorillas to record behavior that may help solve the mystery.
Most people know Rwanda’s Mountain Gorilla, brought to public attention through the film “Gorillas in the Mist”. But it is just one of four subspecies that live in Africa. The Mountain Gorilla is a subspecies of the Eastern Gorilla, so is Grauer’s Gorilla, which is the largest Gorilla of them all. The Western Gorilla also has two subspecies, the Western Lowland Gorilla and the world’s rarest great ape, the Cross River Gorilla.
There is so little known about the Cross River Gorilla that it was only recently described as a distinct subspecies. Isolated in small pockets of highland forest on the border of Cameroon and Nigeria, the Cross River Gorilla has evolved a smaller head and shorter limbs than other gorillas and, some unusual behavior.
But even before scientists can truly understand what makes this Gorilla different it may disappear. There are only a few hundred left. We join scientists on a difficult quest over steep mountain slopes and through thick rainforest, stretching over an area of more than 12,000km2, to seek the last of the Cross River Gorillas before it is too late.
In Gabon we meet biologist Martha Robbins from German Max-Planck-Institute. She is studying Western Lowland Gorillas. Their life in captivity has been researched extensively; but their lifestyle in the hard-to-reach corners of the rainforests still holds many secrets. Extremely shy, the wild gorillas normally avoid human contact; but in the rainforest of Gabon, Martha has managed to gain their trust.
In the process, Robbins discovers distinct differences between the Western Lowland Gorillas and the Mountain Gorillas. Their fur colour and thickness, and even their family structures are surprisingly different. How did this happen and what does it mean for the survival of the critically endangered great apes?
In this film, for the first time, we meet the entire family of Gorillas, the Mountain Gorilla, Grauer’s and the Western Lowland Gorillas, and the most endangered and illusive of them all, the Cross River Gorilla. We will enter their home territories with scientists who seek to understand their lives, and to record new behavior that may lead to revelations that can bring all of the different species of Gorilla back from the brink of extinction.