A Rare Look At What's Lurking In South Sudan's Remote Forests

Leopards and bongos and hogs, oh my.

The lush forests in the western region of war-torn South Sudan are teeming with incredible biodiversity, but scientists haven't captured much photo evidence of the area's animal life -- until now.

DeeAnn Reeder, a professor of biology at Bucknell University, and Adrian Garside, a conservationist at Fauna and Flora International, set up 23 motion-sensing cameras in the remote forests in January. Five months later, they retrieved the images from each one.

Now, the researchers have examined those images -- around 105,000 in all -- and discovered chimpanzees, notoriously shy bongos and many other creatures roaming the area. Most surprising of all, they say, is the presence of rare forest elephants.

"This is an extremely important finding," Reeder said in a statement. "Forest elephants are critically endangered, and have declined dramatically over the last two decades. Finding them in South Sudan expands their known range -- something that urgently needs further study because forest elephants, like their savannah cousins, are facing intense poaching pressure."

Forest elephants are smaller than savannah elephants and tend to inhabit densely wooded rain forests. Garside told the Associated Press that "this is by far the most northerly herd of forest elephants that anyone has seen in Africa."

Scroll down for an unprecedented glimpse into South Sudan's "forgotten forests."

  • A chimpanzee selfie.
    A chimpanzee selfie.
  • Rare forest elephants.
    Rare forest elephants.
  • Forest elephants at night.
    Forest elephants at night.
  • A bongo, a type of African antelope.
    A bongo, a type of African antelope.
  • A golden cat.
    A golden cat.
  • Red river hogs.
    Red river hogs.
  • A leopard.
    A leopard.
  • Forest buffalo.
    Forest buffalo.
  • A honey badger.
    A honey badger.
  • A chimpanzee mother and infant.
    A chimpanzee mother and infant.
  • A giant pangolin, part of a family of&nbsp;obscure but <a href="
    A giant pangolin, part of a family of obscure but heavily hunted and trafficked mammals that were also name-checked in Adam Mansbach's 2011 book Go the Fuck to Sleep.
  • A wildlife ranger and a community wildlife ambassador helping to install&nbsp;cameras in the South Sudan forests.
    A wildlife ranger and a community wildlife ambassador helping to install cameras in the South Sudan forests.