Are you a scientist, conservationist or naturalist? What have you learnt about Dian Fossey and mountain gorillas? Dian Fossey was a primatologist; conservationist, scientist as well as an anthropologist famously known for her research on the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas of the Virunga complex in 1960’s and 1980’s. Spending about 18 years while in the jungles with these remarkable creatures comes with passion and dedication and credit goes to Dian Fossey. Today, Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are the most popular destinations in the world that attract millions of travelers purposely for mountain gorilla trekking and this has not come for the sake but simply because of Dian Fossey’s legacy to conserve mountain gorillas. Her told stories in her book and later a movie “Gorillas in the Mist” can easily be accessed globally. Before this book was published and the movie appeared to the public, hardly did the world know anything about these impressive creatures or why they are the world’s critically endangered species. We credit her because currently, millions of people are aware about wild mountain gorillas something that has simplified their conservation on this planet.
Dian Fossey spent hours and hours with these spectacular primates something that built a strong bond between her and the mountain gorillas in African wilderness. It is such a strong background that the world has understood value of conserving mountain gorillas and their habitat. As well, we are able to understand the complex feelings and collective aptitudes of mountain gorillas and their real threats that from time and again have claimed their lives.
Drawing links between mountain gorillas and humans:
Dian Fossey made splendid findings her research in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda and one of which was that mountain gorillas were very social. Her research indicated the gentleness that these wild creatures demonstrate to one another in the jungles. Mountain gorillas are on wholly the most harmonious animals and only indicate bouts of attack when guarding their babies. She also found out that every mountain gorilla had a different temperament and this explains why she named each mountain gorilla that she met. The other finding that she made was that the rare mountain gorillas attach a strong feeling with their family members. They also mourn just like humans. To Dian Fossey, mountain gorillas share numerous human characteristics especially playing and tickling and this helps us to understand more about human biology.
The escalating threat to mountain gorillas:
This is also something that we shouldn’t forget about Dian Fossey. Many mountain gorillas are protected around the Virunga Volcanoes just within the leaps of Virunga National Park. The park covers many of African states and has unfortunately faced several instabilities for about 2 decades. In the 1990’s, Dian Fossey was forcefully displaced at a time of political insurgency, which came with numerous threats to the lives of mountain gorillas that reside around this area. This also made thousands to be displaced and they resided adjacent the Virunga complex national parks of which has caused intense poaching and mountain gorilla habitat depletion. In addition, the rebel group has also occupied many areas of the park where half of mountain gorillas reside. This has made the work of conservationists to protect these critically endangered species very hard. There are nearly 14o Virunga game rangers who have lost their lives on the frontline of protecting the mountain gorillas since 1996.
The efforts that have been to conserve these creatures extend up to date. Unfortunately, the civil wars in DRC and oil mining have turned to be the stressful factors on endeavors to protect the mountain gorillas. The Virunga National Park protects about 200 mountain gorillas many of which are orphaned gorillas.
In 1970’s, Rwanda on the other hand had only 240 mountain gorillas which is a different case today. Currently, there are less than 900 mountain gorillas that are still surviving in the world and out of this, about 62% of all those that live within the Virunga Massif can be found in the Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. Despite this increase, mountain gorillas are still at the point of extinction in the world and this is nothing other than poaching and habitat encroachment. When we look at what Dian Fossey instructed us concerning these impressively beautiful primates, it is more useful that we direct her love for these creatures into their conservation. It is as a result of Dian Fossey’s conservation endeavors that mountain gorillas have become the only primates whose population is escalating.
Encroachment and mountain gorillas
To conserve the 900 mountain gorillas that are left in the world toady means that we first understand the exact threats that these endangered species are encountering. These threats include poaching, disease, habitat loss and charcoal burning and these have impacted on the decrease of these species either directly or indirectly.
Due to the ever escalating population, humans have moved into areas next to gorilla habitat. This human pressure has also claimed gorilla habitat given the fact that many people largely depend on farming and as a result, these endangered species are displaced from their natural habitats. Living adjacent the park where these primates stay means their lives are at a higher risk of contracting human diseases and illnesses given the fact that they share 98% of their genes with humans makes them to be very susceptible to human diseases. Dian Fossey’s research therefore was crucial in opening up a better understanding of human beings by recognizing our close relatives.
Charcoal burning also leads to deforestation in the gorilla habitat. Despite the fact that charcoal burning is not a legal act, the largest population of adjacent local community residents depend on charcoal as the main source of fuel. Others threats include illegal hunting of mountain gorillas. Although poachers kill Apes for their body parts, in most cases, mountain gorillas are not their main targets; the only unfortunate part of it is that mountain gorillas get entangled into the wire snares and traps which are laid for other species.
Conserving mountain gorillas in Dian Fossey’s memory:
Dian Fossey was animated woman and the heartfelt that she had assisted to save the critically endangered mountain gorillas. At one point Dian Fossey said “when you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on past and concentrate more on the conservation of the future.” We may not alter the current situation that has caused the decrease of the mountain gorillas but we can and we must, as brilliant and empathetic human beings, change the future. You can as well assist to conserve the mountain gorillas by supporting the endeavors of protection groups like Dian Fossey’s Gorilla Fund, Adopt a Mountain gorilla or simply donate towards conservation of mountain gorillas. Above all, go on a Rwanda Gorilla Safari and by so doing you would have supported conservation of mountain gorillas not only in Volcanoes National Park but across the world. We realize that Dian Fossey’s effort to conserve mountain gorillas was useful but, her personal commitment to the lives of these endangered species and her emphasis on the value of these creatures can have a long lasting effect. In case these creatures survive on earth due to her efforts to conserve them then that will certainly be her biggest achievement.
In conclusion, Dian Fossey was backbone of mountain gorilla conservation not only in Rwanda but also Africa at large. The more we put our efforts to conserve these endangered species the more their population increases and thus tourists can be able to enjoy authentic experiences.