Cross River Gorilla

Cross River Gorilla Video
Fewer than 300 Cross River gorillas survive across their remaining range in Cameroon and Nigeria.
©NDR Naturfilm
Cross River Gorilla Photo
Nyango is the only known Cross River gorilla in captivity. She lives in the Limbe Wildlife Center in Cameroon.
©Nicky Lankester

Once thought to be extinct, this unique subspecies of gorilla “resurfaced” in the 1980s and is found only along the southern section of the Nigeria-Cameroon border. Preferring habitats of low- and mid-elevation rainforest and montane forest, the remaining Cross River gorillas live in roughly 11 subgroups dispersed amongst the region’s highland areas. One of four known subspecies of gorilla, Cross River gorillas most closely resemble western lowland gorillas but differ in the dimensions of their skulls and teeth. Researchers have also recognized a number of socio-ecological distinctions.

Like other gorillas, the Cross River gorilla reproduces slowly, with females giving birth only once every four to five years. Since their estimated numbers hover at fewer than 300 individuals, this critically endangered species depends on conservation efforts and law enforcement for its survival.

Fast Facts

Scientific NameGorilla gorilla diehli
  • The Cross River gorilla is the most endangered African ape.
  • Recent genetic studies supported by WCS reveal that the scattered subpopulations of Cross River gorillas are in fact one viable population.
  • Cross River gorillas rank among the world's 25 most endangered primate species.


Illegal hunting for bushmeat and habitat loss threaten the future of Cross River gorillas. Until recently, many Cross River gorillas lived outside of protected areas, where they were highly susceptible to poaching. While the region where these gorillas dwell is known for unusually high levels of biodiversity, human population growth is placing increasing pressure on the area’s forests and wildlife. For instance, extensive agriculture and logging operations divide the gorilla’s habitat into isolated blocks.

WCS Responds

Since 1996, WCS has supported Cross River gorilla research and conservation efforts throughout the subspecies' range, helping to manage protected areas that provide refuge to these gravely endangered apes. In 2008, together with the government of Cameroon and other partners, WCS helped create Takamanda National Park, which safeguards a third of the Cross River gorilla population. Long-term research studies at sites such as Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary in Nigeria and the Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary in Cameroon are giving us a better understanding of Cross River gorilla ecology. Studying how these gorilla populations use their limited habitat, WCS will be able to recommend protective measures for wild corridors that link up the disparate groups.

We have also led a series of international workshops to address this gorilla’s conservation. Following the recommendations of the 2007 Regional Action Plan for the Conservation of the Cross River Gorilla, WCS is committed to improving legislation and law enforcement as well as to investigating how ecotourism could support local conservation projects.

WCS has established educational outreach programs for several communities living in and around Cross River gorilla habitat. These programs inspire local people to work alongside our conservationists, whether by supporting community-managed protected areas, as in Nigeria’s Mbe Mountains, or through joining monitoring initiatives, such as the gorilla guardian network in Cameroon. Additionally, WCS is seeking to generate more sustainable livelihoods and encouraging hunters to transfer their skills to further gorilla research and conservation. These community activities promote the area’s traditional regard for Cross River gorillas.

WCS Projects

Keeping Bushmeat off the Rails in Cameroon

To help Cameroon stem the dangerous trade in bushmeat from forests to lucrative urban markets, WCS partners with the country’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry and the CAMRAIL national train network—in the past, a common means of transporting large volumes of wildlife.

From the Newsroom

Elusive Apes Caught on CameraSeptember 28, 2012

For the first time in history, camera traps captured footage of Cross River gorillas—the rarest of the great apes. Field conservationists devoted to their study rarely spot them, so our colleagues in Cameroon's Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary were floored by footage they discovered last May. Watch as eight gorillas stroll through the woods, and be sure to look out for an incredible demonstration of power by a silverback.

Video Captures Hidden World of Elusive ApesMay 8, 2012

Rare camera trap footage of Cross River gorillas reveals candid behaviors of these rarest of apes as they make their way along a forest path in Cameroon’s Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary.

An Investment in Stripes and RibbitsFebruary 9, 2012

In a big boost for wildlife, 23 new species conservation projects will receive funding from the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the World Bank, and the Global Environment Facility.

New Turf for the Rarest GorillaFebruary 1, 2012

A high-tech study of Cross River gorilla habitat finds that the critically endangered ape’s range is more than 50 percent bigger than previously documented. By protecting habitat corridors between the gorilla’s populations, conservationists may be able to help their numbers grow.

Rare Chance for the Rarest ChimpJune 30, 2011

WCS conservationists and their partners announce a plan to protect the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee. Restricted to pockets of forest within the two countries, the subspecies is the world’s rarest chimp.


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