Normally, when you come up against a rare wild animal in Africa, you grab your binoculars or your camera at once.
It is a simple reflex action. This gorilla was thirty yards away and divided from us by tangled undergrowth and might not perhaps have made a very good photograph, but we could certainly have seen him more clearly through glasses.
Yet none of us moved. In my own case (and I suspect in the case of my friend as well) I felt that there was not a second to be lost of this contact, not even the few instants required to put the binoculars to my eyes.
What does the line in bold mean? The sentence contains "to be", so I wonder, was there a second that had been lost of the contact or not?