SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Mammalia Order: Primates Family: Hominidae Genus: Gorilla Species: G. gorilla Subspecies: G. g. diehli
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.
Cross River gorilla
Gorilla gorilla diehli
South-eastern Nigeria and western Cameroon
Around 250-300 individuals
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 sub-populations, 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.