Cross River Gorilla


Scientists have been unable to thoroughly study the distribution and abundance of the Cross River gorilla until the last decade or so. Because the gorillas are wary of humans and inhabit rugged territory, scientists have been unable to count many of these gorillas directly. Instead, researchers have used indirect signs, such as nest counts, and estimated range sizes to determine that there are only about 200 to 300 of these gorillas left in the wild. Cross River gorillas are scattered in at least 11 groups across the lowland montane forests and rainforests of Cameroon and Nigeria, an area of 3,000 square miles, or about twice the size of Rhode Island.

  • Status
    Critically Endangered
  • Population
    200 to 300 individuals
  • Scientific Name
    Gorilla gorilla diehli
  • Height
    4 to 5 ½ feet when standing on two feet
  • Weight
    up to 440 pounds

This subspecies of the western gorilla is very similar in appearance to the more numerous western lowland gorilla, but subtle differences can be found in the skull and tooth dimensions. Cross River gorillas live in a region populated by many humans who have encroached upon the gorilla’s territory—clearing forests for timber and to create fields for agriculture and livestock. Poaching occurs in the forests as well, and the loss of even a few of these gorillas has a detrimental effect on such a small population.

Efforts to protect these animals are focused on securing the forests that house them. WWF and partners have worked with the governments of Cameroon and Nigeria to create a protected area for the Cross River gorilla that spans the border of these two nations.

What do gorillas eat? And other gorilla facts

Gorillas, the largest living primates, make their homes in central Africa. Poaching, disease and habitat destruction remain threats for gorillas, and WWF is working to designate new protected areas where populations can thrive.

gorilla profile


  • Population 200 to 300 individuals
  • Extinction Risk Critically Endangered
    1. EX

      No reasonable doubt that the last individual has died

    2. EW
      Extinct in the Wild

      Known only to survive in cultivation, in captivity or as a naturalised population

    3. CR
      Critically Endangered

      Facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the Wild

    4. EN

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    5. VU

      Facing a high risk of extinction in the Wild

    6. NT
      Near Threatened

      Likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future

    7. LC
      Least Concern

      Does not qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, or Near Threatened

Gorilla and two babies in front of a tree


The population risks inbreeding and a loss of genetic diversity because there are so few Cross River gorillas and they live in groups that interact infrequently if at all.


The hunting and killing of gorillas is illegal in Cameroon and Nigeria, but enforcement of wildlife laws is often lax. Following conservation efforts, hunting has declined to a low level, but any amount of gorilla killing will have a significantly impact an already small population.

“If we don’t get serious about saving these spectacular species, it’s quite likely that many won’t be around in the years to come.”

Tom Dillon WWF Senior Vice President, Field Programs

What WWF Is Doing

Cross river gorilla habitat

Protecting Gorilla Habitat

WWF and partners have worked with officials in Nigeria and Cameroon to establish a protected area for the Cross River gorilla that spans the border between the two nations. Within that protected area, WWF has established ranger posts, provided field and communication equipment for antipoaching staff, and established a system to monitor the gorilla population.

Promoting Sustainable Forestry

For the past 10 years, WWF and other non-governmental organizations have worked with logging companies, the Cameroon Ministry of Forest and Wildlife and local communities to foster sustainable management of the gorillas’ forest home. These efforts help to ensure that logging enterprises protect sensitive wildlife corridors and waterways and contribute to the fight against poaching.

Gorilla Research

Cross River gorillas are the least well known of all the gorilla subspecies. In partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the governments of Nigeria and Cameroon, WWF supports research about the ecology, distribution and population biology of these animals.


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