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Cross River gorilla

Latin name: Gorilla gorilla diehli

Areas: | Cameroon |

IUCN Red List conservation status

About: Cross River gorilla

Fauna & Flora International has worked with local communities near the gorilla’s habitat to instill a sense of pride in their native species. This has paid off, and it is now almost a complete taboo to hunt Cross River gorillas.

Daniel Pouakouyou

FFI’s Programme Manager for Central Africa

An image relating to Cross River gorilla

With an estimated 280 individuals left in the world, the Critically Endangered Cross River gorilla is Africa’s most threatened great ape. Living in the highlands of Cameroon on the border with Nigeria, they have been hunted for years by local residents, making them very wary of humans.

Fauna & Flora International has worked with local communities near the gorilla’s habitat to instill a sense of pride in their native species. This has paid off, and it is now almost a complete taboo to hunt Cross River gorillas.

Our next challenge is to tackle the destruction of the gorilla’s forest habitat. Sixteen villages surround their habitat and logging is a constant threat. Meanwhile, fires started during bush clearing for farms have swept across the outer slopes of the hills where the gorillas live.

Where do they live?
Cross River gorillas are found in a small area of the Nigeria-Cameroon border, extending a short distance on either side of the border into the forests of the upper drainage basin of the Cross River. Groups are restricted to hilly areas, where their home ranges are approximately 20 km2.

Historically, Cross River gorillas ranged over a much wider area, but populations have become fragmented and isolated from each other.

What do they eat?
Cross River gorillas are largely herbivorous, with fruit comprising the majority of their diet. They also eat leaves, stems, bark, bulbs and some invertebrates. Gorillas obtain all of the water that they need from their food. As their size dictates that they must consume large amounts of fruit, competition for food is a factor in the wide dispersal of remaining groups of Cross River gorillas.

Other interesting facts
Only a very small number of official Cross River gorilla sightings have ever been made, and almost all information on their behaviour and ecology is a result of observations of local hunters.

Cross River gorillas demonstrate some seasonal patterns of movement. Hunters who are familiar with the forests in which the gorillas reside report that gorillas use higher elevations in the wet season and retreat to valleys during the dry season.

No attempts to habituate Cross River gorillas for detailed study and research have been made as the animals are so wary and vulnerable to hunting.

Threats
Numerous dangers threaten the existence of the Cross River gorilla:

  • Conversion of habitat for agriculture and grazing
  • Road construction by logging companies
  • Encroachment of surrounding farmland, which threatens to divide in two the Cross River National Park in Nigeria
  • Poorly enforced wildlife protection laws, which leaves hunting unregulated
  • Risk of inbreeding due to population isolation
  • Transmission of fatal human diseases, specifically the Ebola virus

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Did you know?

They are very closely related to all gorilla species, and to chimpanzees, and they share over 98% of their DNA with humans. Cross River gorillas are a subspecies of the western gorilla whereas mountain gorillas are a subspecies of the eastern gorilla. Physical differences between Cross River gorillas and mountain gorillas are that Cross River gorillas have a more slender build and hair that is lighter in colour.

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