Throughout her career as a zoologist and activist, Dian Fossey was a shining example of dedication. I was touched by her courage and hard work put towards protecting gorillas of the Rwandan Mountain Forest, and her clear passion for them.
"When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate on the preservation of the future." – Gorillas in the Mist
Born January 16, 1932, Dian Fossey was an American primatologist and conservationist who studied endangered gorillas of the Rwandan Mountain Forest. She published an autobiographical book retelling her experiences, Gorillas in the Mist, in 1983. A film of the same title was released in 1988. Fossey's interest in primates was immediately sparked on a trip to various countries in Africa in 1963 where she witnessed gorillas' individual personalities and relationships with one another. She said, "I left Kabara with reluctance, but with never a doubt that I would, somehow, return to learn more about the gorillas of the misted mountains."
She later returned to Democratic Republic of the Congo, where she stayed saying, "I have made my home amoung the mountain gorillas", to learn about the "gentle giants" and working to protect them and their habitats from anthropogenic threats. She passionately fought against government officials who sought to use the habitats for farmland in the media, and physically destroyed poachers' traps and dogs. She stayed working and carrying a 20 pound knapsack every day until she had to escape to Rwanda because of civil war, where she continued her work to protect the gorillas. In 1967, Fossey established the Karisoke Research Foundation (which was originally named Digit after a gorilla who was killed by poachers), and in 1976 she earned her Ph.D at Cambrige University for her research.
Tragically, Fossey was found brutally murdered at her camp in the Rwandan Forest on December 26, 1985, likely killed by poachers, though they were never found. Her legacy lives on through the Karisoke Research Foundation which researches under the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. The institution has expanded to protect other endangered species living in the same habitat, and other gorillas as well, including eastern lowland gorillas, and those living in Virunga National Park.
Biography.com. Dian Fossey biography. bio. Retrieved January 16, 2013 from http://www.biography.com/people/dian-fossey-9299545
The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. Dian Fossey - Biography. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. Retrieved January 17, 2013 from http://gorillafund.org/page.aspx?pid=380