Nigeria boasts many exotic animal species, including lions, African elephants, bushbacks, waterbucks, pygmy hippopotami, hyenas, baboons and severely endangered white-throated monkeys. Nigeria's rainforests also provide sanctuary for the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee and the Cross River gorilla, both struggling to stave off extinction.
In addition to lions, the country has multiple large predators, including leopards and African wild dogs. The lion, once common in Nigeria, has decreased to an estimated 34 roaming free as of 2014. Elephants used to thrive across most of the country as well, but almost all are confined to nature reserves in 2015. Gorillas and elephants in particular require wide tracts of land rich in vegetation.
Land is scarce in Nigeria because of a large population of subsistence farmers who must continually expand into the wilderness seeking usable farmland. This expansion puts humans and animals in direct conflict, contributing to the disintegration of Nigeria's wild animal population. Rampant poaching, systematic deforestation and wildfires threaten what natural habitat remains. In spite of the grim outlook for many species, national parks and reserves like the Cross River National Park and the Yankari Game Reserve offer some hope for survival. At the Yankari, the population of African Bush elephants has grown to around 500. A large population of birds is also observable.