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Cross River Gorillas


Saving the World’s Most Endangered Gorilla

Critically Endangered Apes


Gorillas are among our closest relatives. Inhabiting the rugged highlands on the Nigeria-Cameroon border, the Cross River gorilla is the most critically endangered of all the African apes and one of the most endangered primates in the world. Only about 300 Cross River gorillas remain. This unique subspecies of gorilla was once thought to be extinct, but was rediscovered by scientists in the late 1980s. The survival of these gorillas is threatened by both hunting and habitat loss. Due to these pressures, Cross River gorillas are found only in very remote and mountainous forests where hunters are reluctant to go and where steep slopes prevent farming.

Cutting-Edge Approaches to Conservation


The North Carolina Zoo has partnered with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to help save the Cross River gorilla. Together, the zoo and WCS are employing a range of cutting edge technologies and approaches to conserve these unique animals. We have put a data collection system based on rugged mobile computers in the hands of rangers to better track illegal activities and the movements of the gorillas. Using GPS technology, the system allows rangers to record the exact location of events, such as gorilla nest sites, evidence of poaching, and logging. Information collected by rangers feeds into a central database which automatically maps what they have seen, such as key gorilla areas, poaching hotspots, and other important locations. The system has allowed us to detect a significant reduction in illegal activities at several gorilla sites as a result of our activities.

Conservation Canines


The zoo also pioneered the very first use of trained detection dogs for conservation research in an African rainforest. Working with partners Working Dogs for Conservation, we brought a team of detection dogs to Cameroon to search for dung samples from Cross River gorillas. Such samples can be used for DNA and disease analysis, both of which are important for planning conservation. However, since the Cross River gorillas are so rare, finding these samples in hundreds of square miles of forest can be very difficult. The working dogs team was able to find dung samples much more easily than human researchers. The samples are currently being used to determine whether human diseases pose a threat to the gorillas.

Expanding our Work to Help Other Gorillas


The success of our Cross River gorilla monitoring program attracted the interest of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund (DFGFI), one of the lead organizations involved with studying and protecting the mountain gorilla. These gorillas, made famous by the work of Diane Fossey, are almost as endangered as the Cross River gorilla. North Carolina Zoo helped DFGFI set up a computer-based data collection system for a number of their conservation and research projects. At present the system is being used to monitor anti-poaching activities, large mammals, birds and the bamboo that is a key component of the mountain gorillas’ diet.

Saving Species>


Cross River Gorillas

Tracking Elephants from Space

Vultures of Southern Tanzania

Hellbender Salamander

Red Wolves of the Alligator River

SMART Conservation and Ranger Training

U.N.I.T.E. Conservation Education

Chimpanzee Conservation

Bonobo and Congo Biodiversity Initiative

Crane Conservation

Endangered Monkeys of Bioko

Mobile Bat Detector

Ostrich Recovery Project

Polar Bear Conservation

Protecting Endangered Pacific Birds

Rothschild’s Giraffe Project

Tools for Monitoring Carnivores

Saving Species>


Cross River Gorillas

Tracking Elephants from Space

Vultures of Southern Tanzania

Hellbender Salamander

Red Wolves of the Alligator River

SMART Conservation and Ranger Training

U.N.I.T.E. Conservation Education

Chimpanzee Conservation

Bonobo and Congo Biodiversity Initiative

Crane Conservation

Endangered Monkeys of Bioko

Mobile Bat Detector

Ostrich Recovery Project

Polar Bear Conservation

Protecting Endangered Pacific Birds

Rothschild’s Giraffe Project

Tools for Monitoring Carnivores

Saving Species>


Cross River Gorillas

Tracking Elephants from Space

Vultures of Southern Tanzania

Hellbender Salamander

Red Wolves of the Alligator River

SMART Conservation and Ranger Training

U.N.I.T.E. Conservation Education

Chimpanzee Conservation

Bonobo and Congo Biodiversity Initiative

Crane Conservation

Endangered Monkeys of Bioko

Mobile Bat Detector

Ostrich Recovery Project

Polar Bear Conservation

Protecting Endangered Pacific Birds

Rothschild’s Giraffe Project

Tools for Monitoring Carnivores