King Kong to the rescue

The over-sized ape and the director of his blockbuster movie have joined a campaign to save mountain gorillas

A A A

In the epic new Hollywood blockbuster, King Kong is the last of his kind. Transported from his natural habitat and left to swipe at fighter jets swooping around him at the top of the Empire State building, the giant ape faces a pitiful death.

That is, of course, fiction, as seen at the end of Peter Jackson's acclaimed remake of the classic 1930s film. But a remarkable spin-off from the award-winning director's movie has been a boost for efforts to save a rather more real species from extinction.

Jackson, who spent £200m on reshooting the classic girl-meets-gorilla tale, is backing attempts to save the planet's last great apes. When the DVD of King Kong is released later this month, Jackson plans to include a documentary film about the plight of the mountain gorilla in central Africa, whose numbers have been decimated by poachers, trophy hunters and loss of natural habitat.

He is backing work by the International Gorilla Conservation Programme to save the last remaining mountain gorillas. Charity premieres of the new film have already raised more than $100,000 for environmental projects to help keep the species going.

With further talks scheduled between Jackson and animal welfare groups, there is increasing optimism that greater public awareness of the gorillas' plight - there are thought to be fewer than 1,000 of them left - will lead to a worldwide campaign to prevent extinction.

Amid predictions that the last mountain gorilla will die within three decades, other leading Hollywood figures have joined the campaign. Andy Serkis, who plays Kong in the Jackson movie, has recently become a trustee of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, an organisation established by the campaigner in 1978 and renamed to honour her memory after she was murdered, probably by poachers, in 1985.

Mr Serkis told The Independent on Sunday: "The original King Kong film did a lot of damage to the reputation of gorillas and there was a big upsurge in gorilla hunting after that film.

"The tragedy of Kong is that the story is not too far removed from the truth, in that he is the last of his kind. I intend to make gorilla conservation part of what I do from now on."

While his talks with conservation groups have remained private until now, Jackson signalled his commitment to the campaign at the British premiere of King Kong, saying in a video message to the audience: "Gorillas are truly amazing animals - without them there wouldn't be entertainment like King Kong. It's really vital that we take this opportunity to realise how similar they are to us, and how endangered they are."

He added: "There are only 706 mountain gorillas left: that is like the population of a small village in a world of six and a half billion people. I'd like to invite everyone to support the work that the International Gorilla Conservation Progamme is doing, not just for the sake of gorillas, but for the people who live alongside them, and so that future generations can live in a world where gorillas are more than a memory."

Stars including Sigourney Weaver and Christian Bale have backed the campaign, while members of the crew of King Kong are understood to have joined an adopt-a-gorilla scheme.

Chris Cutter, a spokesman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, told the IoS: "The earth's great apes, including mountain gorillas, are facing global extinction within the next 50 years. If Peter Jackson were to keep throwing his full weight behind the conservation efforts, he would become the issue's 900lb gorilla."

Yet another danger looms for the species. The Independent on Sunday can reveal that, as well as facing the ongoing threat from poachers, initial data from a survey carried out in the Congo - one of the main habitats for gorillas - has confirmed conservationists' worst fears: that the Ebola virus may be spreading among the few that remain.

Researchers working in Odzala National Park, a Unesco reserve once home to an estimated 30,000 western lowland gorillas, were shocked to discover that the virus had reached the 13,600 sq km reserve.

Jefferson Hall, of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said: "Parts of the park where gorillas used to live are now empty of them. It is absolutely a conservation crisis - an emergency. The population has been seemingly decimated."

Stephen Blake, a researcher who spent months studying the scale of the problem, added: "Our preliminary data suggests that Ebola has had a major impact on the gorillas of Odzala. It doesn't look good at all."

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
nflAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Support Analyst - London - £22,000

£20000 - £22000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chel...

Learning Support Assistants-Nantwich area

£8 - £9 per hour: Randstad Education Chester: We are currently recruiting for ...

Primary Teachers-Northwich area

£85 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Primary Teachers- Northwich Ar...

Primary Teachers-Northwich area

£85 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Primary Teachers- Northwich Ar...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London