- 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
Until the last decade or two, scientists were unable to adequately investigate the range and abundance of the Cross River gorilla. Scientists have been unable to actually count many of these gorillas because they are cautious of humans and live in rough terrain. Researchers have estimated that there are only about 200 to 300 of these gorillas surviving in the wild based on indirect evidence such as nest counts and estimated range sizes. Cross River gorillas are found in at least 11 groups throughout 3,000 square miles of Cameroon and Nigeria’s lowland montane forests and rainforests, an area roughly twice the size of Rhode Island.
This subspecies of the western gorilla looks quite similar to the more common western lowland gorilla, but the skull and tooth measurements are somewhat different. Cross River gorillas reside in a location where numerous humans have encroached on the gorillas’ territory, cutting trees for timber and establishing agricultural and livestock fields. Poaching happens in the forests as well, and the loss of even a few of these gorillas has a negative impact on the population’s modest size.
The woodlands that these animals call home are the focus of conservation efforts. WWF and allies collaborated with the governments of Cameroon and Nigeria to establish a cross-border protected area for the Cross River gorilla.
Gorilla hunting and killing are prohibited in Cameroon and Nigeria, although wildlife rules are frequently disregarded. Hunting has decreased as a result of conservation measures, yet any amount of gorilla slaughter will have a substantial impact on an already limited population.
Because there are so few Cross River gorillas because they reside in groups that interact infrequently if at all, the population faces inbreeding and a loss of genetic diversity.