James Hopkirk
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC 2012

For more photos from Bangui and Dzanga Sanga, visit www.jameshopkirk.com

Dzanga Bai is a huge clearing in the middle of the jungle in the Central African Republic, where herds of up to 200 forest elephants congregate to suck up mineral deposits. This pocket of protected forest is part of the Dzanga Sangha reserve in the remote south-western tip of the country. This large (but shrinking) tract of virgin rainforest houses an extraordinary array of indigenous wildlife, including elephants and western lowland gorillas.

Dzanga Bai is a huge clearing in the middle of the jungle in the Central African Republic, where herds of up to 200 forest elephants congregate to suck up mineral deposits. This pocket of protected forest is part of the Dzanga Sangha reserve in the remote south-western tip of the country. This large (but shrinking) tract of virgin rainforest houses an extraordinary array of indigenous wildlife, including elephants and western lowland gorillas.

Baby forest elephant running through the clearing, Dzanga Bai.

Baby forest elephant running through the clearing, Dzanga Bai.

Baby forest elephant, Dzanga Bai.

Baby forest elephant, Dzanga Bai.

Mayele, the dominant male silverback of the Mongambe group, Dzanga Sangha. These western lowland gorillas have been habituated over the last eight years or so, which is about how long it takes for a group to feel comfortable in the presence of humans.

Mayele, the dominant male silverback of the Mongambe group, Dzanga Sangha. These western lowland gorillas have been habituated over the last eight years or so, which is about how long it takes for a group to feel comfortable in the presence of humans.

Western lowland gorillas live in dense forest and are tough to photograph. Two years ago I photographed the group at Mondika in the Congo and faced similar challenges: very low light and thick foliage. You can be five metres from a large gorilla and yet have no shot because the undergrowth is so dense. Most of these photos are shot at 3200 ISO, 1/80th shooting handheld with a 400mm lens (at f4) - made possible by Image Stabilisation and the 5D MkII’s low-light performance.

Western lowland gorillas live in dense forest and are tough to photograph. Two years ago I photographed the group at Mondika in the Congo and faced similar challenges: very low light and thick foliage. You can be five metres from a large gorilla and yet have no shot because the undergrowth is so dense. Most of these photos are shot at 3200 ISO, 1/80th shooting handheld with a 400mm lens (at f4) - made possible by Image Stabilisation and the 5D MkII’s low-light performance.

The baby of the group. The Mongambe group consists of 14 individuals, led by Mayele.

The baby of the group. The Mongambe group consists of 14 individuals, led by Mayele.

Agile Mangabey monkeys, Dzanga Sangha - about an hour from Bai Hokou, deep in the rainforest.
These monkeys normally live in groups of 20 or so, but at Bai Hokou there is a habituated group of around 200 individuals.

Agile Mangabey monkeys, Dzanga Sangha - about an hour from Bai Hokou, deep in the rainforest.

These monkeys normally live in groups of 20 or so, but at Bai Hokou there is a habituated group of around 200 individuals.

With the Ba’Aka, a few miles south of Bayanga, Dzanga Sangha. The nets you can see here are used for hunting. Women take part in the hunt alongside the men.

With the Ba’Aka, a few miles south of Bayanga, Dzanga Sangha. The nets you can see here are used for hunting. Women take part in the hunt alongside the men.