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Dian Fossey is one of the greatest and most prominent primatologists of the 20th century. She was considered an authority in all issues related to the endangered mountain gorillas from 1967 till her death in 1985. Born in 1932, Dian Fossey spent most of her life studying mountain gorillas extensively in their natural habitat and at her Karisoke Research Camp/center located between Mount Bisoke and Karisimbi in Rwanda.  She made the world know more about mountain gorillas and advocated for their protection against extensive poaching.  It’s widely believed that without her efforts, mountain gorillas would have been extinct or their numbers drastically reduced.

Because of her work and strong conviction, gorilla poaching has been eliminated or reduced considerably in Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. Perhaps her greatest contribution was to discover how to make wild gorillas comfortable around human presence. By gaining the trust of mountain gorillas that had been fearful of humans due to large scale poaching, gorilla habituation for many more gorilla groups became possible. Visitors can now see these gentile and amazing creatures up-close instead of talking about some savage creatures living deep in the jungles of Africa.

Dian Fossey was invited to Africa by the great paleoanthropologist Dr. Richard Leakey to study the life of mountain gorillas in the wild. Dr. Leakey thought that by studying our closest relatives the gorillas, we would understand human origin even better. As Dian Fossey learnt more about the great apes, she channeled her efforts from research to protection and gorilla conservation. She opposed poaching and fought against gorilla tourism recommending that mountain gorillas be left undisturbed in their natural habitat.   Some of the methods she used for dealing with poachers might have been considered excessive but she always had the interests of the mountain gorillas at heart.

Unfortunately good works also attracts hatred. Dian Fossey was murdered in a remote house on top of the mountains in1985.  She was buried next to some of the gorillas she worked so hard to protect. Circumstances surrounding her murder remain a mystery but it’s believed that her murder was related to her strong conviction and desire to end poaching and protect the gorillas.  Despite her sad ending, the legacy and work of Dian Fossey remains and her famous book Gorillas in the Mist was later made a film depicting her personal life and work with the gorillas – A must watch. Even with her death, her work was not in vain. The Dian Fossey Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund international (DFGF) continues to work towards the conservation of the mountain gorillas by running several projects including taking care of gorilla groups within East and Central Africa. The number of mountain gorillas keeps increasing. In fact, it is believed that there could now be over 1000 mountain gorillas living in the vast forests and mountain slopes of Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. Before you learn more about how to pay homage to Dian Fossey, you might want to check out our 3 Days Gorilla tour and Dian Fossey memorial hike.