Cross River gorilla

The Cross River gorilla was unknown to science until the early 20th century. Only found in a few forest patches in Nigeria and Cameroon, this western gorilla subspecies is the world’s rarest great ape.
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Cross River gorillas are very wary of humans, and this picture is one of very few ever taken of this species.
© Jacqui Sunderland Groves

Key facts

  • Common name

    Cross River gorilla

  • Scientific name

    Gorilla gorilla diehli

  • Location

    South-eastern Nigeria and western Cameroon

  • Population

    Around 250-300 individuals

  • Status

    Critically Endangered

    More

Physical description 

The Cross River gorilla is a subspecies of the western gorilla. It differs from from the other subspecies, the western lowland gorilla, in skull and tooth dimensions.

A high-altitude life

The Cross River gorilla is usually found in montane rainforest between 1,500 and 3,500 meters and in bamboo forest from about 2,500 to 3,000 meters.

Population & distribution

The Cross River gorilla is restricted to a small area of highland forest on the border of Cameroon and Nigeria.

This restricted distribution to highland areas is likely a consequence of human hunting pressure and competition over habitat, which is more intense in lowland areas.

With a population of only around 250-300 divided into several subpopulations, some of which number no more than 20 individuals, it is currently the world’s rarest great ape.

What are the main threats?

Habitat loss
Many Cross River gorilla groups live in unprotected forest and face the threat of habitat loss through logging and as local people clear land for agriculture and cattle grazing.

Hunting
As forests are opened up by timber companies, hunters move in.

Loss of genetic diversity
The subspecies also faces the risk of inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity due to the small population size and the low flow of genetic exchange between the different subpopulations.

Although areas of unoccupied potential gorilla habitat still remain and can provide connectivity between the subpopulations, these areas are not yet safe for gorillas to use.

Habitat

Major habitat type
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests.

Range States
Nigeria, Cameroon

Geographical Location
Central Africa

Ecological Region
Cameroon Highlands Forests

What is WWF doing?

WWF's African Great Apes Programme is engaged in a number of conservation measures to ensure the survival of all gorilla populations.

In collaboration with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the governments of Nigeria and Cameroon, we are particularly working to strengthen protection and law enforcement for the Cross River gorilla. For example:
  • We are working to improve cooperation between Nigeria and Cameroon for protecting the subspecies
     
  • In Cameroon, we contributed to initiatives that led to the establishment of a new sanctuary in the Kagwene Mountains. 

  • WWF is also supporting government efforts to supervise the management of Campo Ma’an National Park in Cameroon and encourage sustainable use of forest resources in its buffer zone.
     
  • In Nigeria, the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, a WWF Affiliate, is working with communities in the Cross River National Park.
     
  • Future projects will focus on establishing protected corridors of forest habitat that will allow safe movement of gorillas between different groups

» WWF's work to save gorillas
» WWF African Great Apes Programme
» Work in the Congo Basin

Priority species

Gorillas and other great apes are a WWF priority species. WWF treats priority species as one of the most ecologically, economically and/or culturally important species on our planet. As such, we are working to ensure all great apes can live and thrive in their natural habitats.

How you can help

  • Buy sustainable wood. By purchasing FSC-certified forest products, consumers, retailers, traders, and manufacturers help protect gorilla habitat by encouraging sustainable forestry and limiting illegal logging. Without the FSC label, your timber may well stem from illegal or controversial sources in central Africa.
     
  • Donate to WWF to help support our great ape conservation work.
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  • Scientific classification

    Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
    Order: Primates
    Family: Hominidae
    Genus: Gorilla
    Species: G. gorilla
    Subspecies: G. g. diehli

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