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Dian Fossey
Born January 16, 1932
San Francisco, California, USA
Died December 26, 1985 (aged 53)
Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
Citizenship United States
Fields Ethology, primatology
Institutions Karisoke, Cornell University
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Known for Saving the mountain gorilla from extinction
Influences Jane Goodall, Louis Leakey, George Schaller

Dian Fossey (pronounced /daɪˈæn ˈfɒsi/; January 16, 1932 in San Francisco, California – December 26, 1985, Virunga Mountains, Rwanda) was an American zoologist who undertook an extensive study of gorilla groups over a period of 18 years. She studied them daily in the mountain forests of Rwanda, initially encouraged to work there by famous anthropologist Louis Leakey. She was murdered in 1985, by unknown assailants; the case remains open.

Along with Jane Goodall and Birutė Galdikas, she was known as a "Trimate" one of the three most prominent researchers on primates: Fossey on Gorillas; Goodall on Chimpanzees; and Galdikas on Orangutans.


Scientific and Conservational Achievements

On September 24, 1967, Fossey founded the Karisoke Research Center, a remote rainforest camp nestled in Ruhengeri province. “Kari” for the first four letters of Mt. Karisimbi that overlooked her camp from the south, and “soke” for the last four letters of Mt. Visoke, the slopes of which rose to the north, directly behind camp.[1] Established 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) up Mount Visoke, the defined study area covered 25 square kilometres (9.7 sq mi).[2] She became known as by locals as Nyirmachabelli, roughly translated as "The woman who lives alone on the mountain."

When her photograph, taken by Bob Campbell, appeared on the cover of National Geographic Magazine in January 1970, Fossey became an international celebrity, bringing massive publicity to her cause of saving the mountain gorilla from extinction, as well as convincing the general public that gorillas are not as bad as they are sometimes depicted in movies and books. Photographs showing the gorilla "Peanuts" touching Fossey's hand depicted the first recorded peaceful contact between a human being and a wild gorilla. Her extraordinary rapport with animals and her background as an occupational therapist brushed away the Hollywood "King Kong" myth of an aggressive, savage beast.

Opposition to poaching

Fossey strongly supported "active conservation"—for example anti-poaching patrols and preservation of natural habitat—as opposed to "theoretical conservation", which includes the promotion of tourism. She was also strongly opposed to zoos, as the capture of individual animals all too often involves the killing of their family members.[citation needed] Many animals do not survive the transport, and the breeding rate and survival rate in zoos are often lower than in the wild. For example, in 1978, Fossey attempted to prevent the export of two young gorillas, Coco and Pucker, from Rwanda to the Cologne, Germany, zoo. She learned that, during their capture, 20 adult gorillas had been killed. The two captives were given to Fossey by their captors for treatment of injuries suffered during capture and captivity. With considerable effort, she restored them to some approximation of health. They were shipped to Cologne, where they lived nine years in captivity, both dying in the same month.[3] She viewed the holding of animals in "prison" (zoos) for the entertainment of people as unethical.[4]

Opposition to tourism

Dian Fossey strongly opposed tourism as gorillas are very susceptible to diseases by humans like the flu for which they have no immune defense. Dian Fossey reported several cases in which gorillas died because of diseases spread by tourists. She also viewed tourism as an interference into their natural wild behaviour. [3]

Preservation of habitat

Fossey is responsible for the revision of a European Community project that converted parkland into pyrethrum farms. Thanks to her efforts, the park boundary was lowered from the 3,000-meter line to the 2,500-meter line.[3]

Digit Fund

During the daytime of New Year's Eve 1977, Fossey's favourite gorilla, Digit, was killed by poachers. As guard of study group 4, he had held off six poachers and their dogs who ran into the group within their antelope traplines. Digit took five spear wounds, yet in ferocious self-defense managed to kill one of the poachers' dogs, allowing the other 13 members of his group to escape.[5] He was decapitated for the price of $20. After his mutilated body was discovered by Ph.D. research student Ian Redmond, Fossey's group captured one of the killers. He revealed the names of his five accomplices, three of whom were later imprisoned.[6]

Fossey resultantly created the Digit Fund to raise money for anti-poaching patrols.[4] Digit's death had a profound effect on her approach to conservationism, and she commented that "I have tried not to allow myself to think of Digit's anguish, pain and the total comprehension he must have suffered in knowing what humans were doing to him. From that moment on, I came to live within an insulated part of myself."[7]

Fossey became more intense in protecting the gorillas and began to employ more direct tactics: cutting animal traps almost as soon as they were set; frightened, captured and beat the poachers; hold their cattle for ransom; burn their crops and even their houses.[8] Fossey also constantly challenged the local officials to enforce the law and assist her.

Cornell University and autobiography

By 1980, Fossey was recognised as the world's leading authority on the physiology and behaviour of mountain gorillas, defining gorillas as being "dignified, highly social, gentle giants, with individual personalities, and strong family relationships."[9]

Dr Fossey lectured as professor at Cornell University in 1981-1983. Her bestselling book Gorillas in the Mist was praised by Nikolaas Tinbergen, the Dutch ethologist and ornithologist who won the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Her book remains the best-selling book about gorillas of all time.[3]


Dian Fossey was born in San Francisco, California to George and Kitty Fossey.[9] Her father was a US Navy sailor. Her parents divorced when Dian was aged 6.[8] Her mother remarried the following year, to businessman Richard Price. Her father tried to keep in contact, but her mother discouraged it and all contact was subsequently lost.[9] At age six she began riding, earning a letter from her school; by her graduation in 1954, Fossey had established herself as an equestrian.


Educated at Lowell High School, following the guidance of her stepfather she enrolled in a business course at Marin Junior College. However, a summer on a ranch in Montana aged 19 rekindled her love of animals, and she resultantly enrolled in a pre-veterinary course in biology at the University of California, Davis. She supported herself by working as a clerk at White Front (a department store), doing other clerking and laboratory work, and working as a machinist in a factory.However, although up to that point an exemplary student, Fossey found difficulties with base sciences including chemistry and physics, and failed her second year. She transferred to San José State College to study occupational therapy, receiving her bachelor's degree in 1954.Initially following her college major, Fossey began a career in occupational therapy. Interned at various hospitals in California, she worked with tuberculosis patients.[1] After less than a year, she moved to Louisville, Kentucky. Living a few miles south of the town on Judge George Long's estate off of Bardstown Road in the servants quarters,[8] she eventually became director of the occupational therapy department at Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.[10]

Fossey received her PhD from Darwin College, Cambridge, for a thesis entitled "The behavior of the mountain gorilla" in 1976. Between 1981 and 1983 Fossey lectured as Professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Interest in Africa

Fossey became friends with Mrs Mary White "Gaynee" Henry, secretary to the chief administrator at the hospital and wife of one of the doctors Dr. Michael J. Henry, who lived on Summit Avenue, Louisville.[9] After having to turn down an offer to join the couple on an Africa tour due to her inability to raise the finance,[9] in 1963 she borrowed $8,000 (1 year's salary), and went on a seven week visit to Africa.[8]

In September 1963, she arrived in Nairobi, Kenya.[1] Whilst there, she met actor William Holden who owned Treetops Hotel,[8] who introduced her to the guide John Alexander whom Dian had booked.[8] Alexander became her guide for the next seven weeks through Kenya, Tanganyika, Zaire, and Rhodesia. Alexander's route included visits to Tsavo, Africa’s largest national park, the saline lake of Manyara, famous for attracting giant flocks of flamingos, and the Ngorongoro Crater, well-known for its abundant wildlife.[1] The final two sites for her visit were Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania (the archeological site of Louis and Mary Leakey); and Mt. Mikeno in Congo, where in 1959, American zoologist George Schaller had carried out a pioneering study of the mountain gorilla. At Olduvai Gorge, Fossey met Dr. Leakey and his wife while they were examining the area for hominid fossils. Louis talked to Fossey about the work of Jane Goodall and the importance of long term research of the great apes, work pioneered by George Schaller.[1] Although she had broken her ankle while visiting the Leakeys,[1] by October 16, Fossey was staying in Walter Baumgartel's small hotel in Uganda, the Travellers Rest. Baumgartel, an advocate of gorilla conservation, was among the first to see the benefits that tourism could bring to the area, and he introduced Fossey to Kenyan wildlife photographers Joan and Alan Root. The couple agreed to allow Fossey and Alexander to camp behind their own camp, and it was during these few days that Fossey first encountered wild mountain gorillas.[1]After staying with friends in Rhodesia, Fossey returned home to Louisville to repay her loans. She wrote and had published three articles in The Courier-Journal newspaper, detailing her visit to Africa.[1][8]

After studying Swahili for the eight months it took to get her visa and funding agreed, Fossey arrived in Nairobi in December 1966. With the help of Joan Root, she acquired the necessary provisions and an old canvas-topped Land Rover which she named “Lily.” On the way to the Congo, Fossey visited the Gombe Stream Research Centre to meet Jane Goodall, and observe her research methods with chimpanzees.[1] Accompanied by Alan Root who helped her obtained work permits for the Virunga mountains, Fossey began her field study at Kabara, in the Zaire in early 1967. Root taught her basic gorilla tracking, and his tracker Sanwekwe later Fossey's camp. Living in tents on mainly tinned produce, once a month Fossey would hike down the mountain to “Lily” and make the two-hour drive to the village of Kikumba to restock.[1]

Fossey identified three distinct groups in her study area, but couldn't get close to them. She eventually found that mimicking their actions and making grunting sounds assured them, together with submissive behaviour and eating of the local celery plant. Like George Schaller, Fossey relied greatly on individual “noseprints” for identification, initially via sketching and later by camera.[1]

Fossey had arrived in the Congo in locally turbulent times. Known as the Belgian Congo up until its independence in June 1960, unrest and rebellion plagued the new government until 1965, when Lieutenant General Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, by then commander-in-chief of the national army, seized control of the country and declared himself president for five years during what is now called the Congo Crisis. With resultant political upheaval involving battles breaking out, there a rebellion in the Kivu Province. On July 9, 1967, soldiers arrived at the camp to escort them down, and she was interned at Rumangabo for two weeks. Fossey eventually escaped through bribery to Walter Baumgärtel's Travellers Rest Hotel in Kisoro, where her escort was arrested by the Ugandan military.[1][11] Advised by the Ugandan authorities not to return to Congo, after meeting Dr Leakey in Nairobi, Fossey agreed with him against US Embassy advice to restart her study on the Rwandan side of the Virungas.[1] In Rwanda, Fossey had met Rosamond Carr who introduced her to Belgian Alyette DeMunck, who through her knowledge of Rwanda offered to find Fossey a suitable site.[1] the future Karisoke Research station

Personal life

After returning to Louisville, she met and later became engaged to Alexea Forrester, related to a family she met in Africa. After leaving for Africa in 1966, in later interviews Fossey would comment that "I left my appendix and fiancé in the states."[8]

Fossey then became involved with National Geographic photographer Bob Campbell after a year of working together at Karisoke with Campbell promising to leave his wife.[8] But eventually the pair grew apart through her dedication to the gorillas and Karisoke, and his need to work further afield. In 1970, during her time in Cambridge to get her Ph.D., she discovered she was pregnant and got an abortion, later commenting that "you can't be a cover girl for National Geographic Magazine and be pregnant."[8]

The Wall Street Journal in March 2002 described Fossey at the end of her life as colourful and controversial and "a racist alcoholic who regarded her gorillas as better than the African people who lived around them."[8][12] However Farley Mowat's book "Woman in the Mist" dismisses these allegations as sick fantasies by her detractors. In his book Mowat writes that during her South African lecture tour Fossey was so critical of Apartheid that she was banned from South Africa.


Dian Fossey was described by her friends "as exuberant as a whirlwind" after she obtained her 2 years visa and sold the rights to her book to Universal Studios for 1 million dollars to secure the funding of her poaching patrols forever. Her presence and her opposition to the financial exploitation of the gorillas must have been "intolerable to some people" as cited in Farley Mowat's book Woman in the Mist.

Fossey was found murdered in the bedroom of her cabin on December 26, 1985. The last entry in her diary read:[13]

When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate on the preservation of the future

Fossey's skull had been split by a panga (machete), a tool widely used by poachers, which she had confiscated years earlier and hung as a decoration on the wall of her living room adjacent to her bedroom. Fossey was found dead beside her bed, with her gun beside her but the ammunition didn't fit the weapon. The cabin showed signs of a struggle as there was broken glass on the floor and tables and other furniture overturned. All Fossey's valuables were still in the cabin - thousands of dollars in cash and travelers' checks, and photo equipment remained untouched. She was 2 metres (6.6 ft) away from a hole cut in the wall of the cabin on the day of her murder.[3] Despite the violent nature of the wound, there was relatively little blood in her bedroom, leading some to believe that she was killed before the head-wound was inflicted, as head wounds, even superficial ones, usually bleed profusely.[citation needed]

Fossey is interred at Karisoke,[14][15] in a site that she herself had constructed for her dead gorilla friends. She was buried in the gorilla graveyard next to Digit, and near many gorillas killed by poachers.

Fossey's will stated that all her money (including proceeds from the movie) should go to the Digit Fund to finance anti-poaching patrols. However, her mother Kitty Price, challenged the will and won.[3]

Opponents and theories on murder

After Fossey's death, her entire staff, including Rwelekana, a tracker she had fired months before, were arrested. All but Rwelekana, who was later found dead in prison, supposedly having hanged himself, were released.[3]

On the night of Fossey's murder, a metal sheeting from her bedroom was removed at the only place of the bedroom where it would not have been obstructed by her furniture, which supports the case that the murder was committed by someone who was familiar with the cabin and her day-to-day activities. The sheeting of her cabin, which was normally securely locked at night, might also have been removed after the murder to make it appear as if the killing was the work of poachers.

Farley Mowat's biography of Fossey, Woman in the Mists, suggests that it is unlikely that she was killed by poachers. According to Mowat, it is unlikely that a stranger could have entered her cabin by cutting a hole and then going to her living-room to get the panga, giving Fossey time to escape; the amount of untouched valuables also makes it unlikely the act of a poor poacher. According to the book, poachers would have been more likely to kill her in the forest, with little risk to themselves. Mowat hence believes that she was killed by those who viewed her as an impediment to the touristic and financial exploitation of the gorillas.

According to Linda Melvern in her book Conspiracy to Murder, Protais Zigiranyirazo, Préfet of Ruhengeri, animal trader and Rwanda's ex-president's brother-in-law, could also have been "implicated in the murder of Dian Fossey in 1985." Quoting Nick Gordon, author of a book about Fossey's death, "Another reason why she might have been murdered is that she knew too much about the illegal trafficking by Rwanda's ruling clique." Protais Zigiranyirazo also had strong financial interests in gorilla tourism.

Fossey was portrayed by her detractors as eccentric and obsessed, and all kinds of stories circulated about her. According to her letters, ORTPN, the World Wildlife Fund, African Wildlife Foundation, FPS, the Mountain Gorilla Project and some of her former students tried to wrest control of the Karisoke research center from her for the purpose of tourism, by portraying her as unstable. In her last two years, Fossey claims not to have lost any gorillas to poachers; however the Mountain Gorilla Project, which was supposed to patrol the Mount Sabyinyo area, tried to cover up gorilla deaths caused by poaching and diseases transmitted through tourists. Nevertheless, these organizations received most of the public donations.[3] The public often believed their money would go to Fossey, who was struggling to finance her anti-poaching patrols, while organizations collecting in her name put it into tourism projects and as she put it "to pay the airfare of so-called conservationists who will never go on anti-poaching patrols in their life."

Many of the organizations that opposed Fossey, including ORTPN (the Rwandan tourism office) and other wildlife organizations, used and continue to use her name for their financial gain up to this day.[3] Weeks before her death, ORTPN refused to renew her visa, and pressure on Fossey was mounting. However, Fossey managed to obtain a special two-year visa through Augustin Nduwayezu, a benevolent Secretary-General in charge of immigration.[3] Mowat believes that the extension of her visa amounted to a de facto death warrant.

Months before her death, Fossey signed a $1,000,000 contract with Universal Studios for a movie that was to be based on her book, Gorillas in the Mist. The prospect that her work would be funded far into the future may have contributed to her demise.[citation needed]

The director of ORTPN, Habirameye, who refused to renew Fossey's last visa request, insisted at the filming of Gorillas in the Mist that there should be as little about the death scene as possible.[citation needed]


After her death, Fossey's Digit Fund in the U.S. was renamed the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. The Karisoke Research Center is operated by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, and continues the daily gorilla monitoring and protection that she started.

The Digit Fund in the UK, which Fossey lost to the Fauna Protection League (FPL), was also renamed after her as "The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund UK" (DFGF-UK). However she never received any funds collected in her name by the FPL; and although some conservationists associated with the FPL wanted her to be removed from Rwanda FPL and the DFGF-UK (which renamed itself The Gorilla Organization in 2006), they continue to use her name up to this day for their financial purposes (including promotion of tourism, which Fossey opposed, and the financing of local bureaucrats).[3]

One of Fossey's friends, Shirley McGreal, continues to work for the protection of primates through the work of her International Primate Protection League (IPPL) one of the few wildlife organizations that according to Fossey effectively promotes "active conservation".

Between Fossey's death until the 1994 Rwanda genocide, Karisoke was directed by former students who had opposed her.[3] During the genocide, the camp was completely looted and destroyed. Today only remnants remain of her cabin, as it had been converted into a museum for tourists at the time. During the civil war the Virunga parks were filled with refugees and illegal logging destroyed vast areas.

Today, the Rwandan people have realized the importance of the mountain gorillas and their natural habitat. They have returned to the past by bringing back Kwita Izina - the Baby Gorilla Naming Ceremony in which each baby gorilla gets a name.


Mowat's Virunga, whose British and U.S. editions are called Woman in the Mist 'The Story of Dian Fossey and the Mountain Gorillas of Africa', was the first book-length biography of Fossey, and it serves as an insightful counterweight to the dramatizations and fiction of the movie. It includes many of Fossey's own letters and entries in her journals.

A new book published in 2005 by National Geographic in the United States and Palazzo Editions in the United Kingdom as No One Loved Gorillas More, written by Camilla de la Bedoyere, features for the first time Fossey's story told through the letters she wrote to her family and friends. The book was published to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of her death, and includes many of Bob Campbell's previously unpublished photographs.

In 2006, Gorilla Dreams: The Legacy of Dian Fossey was published, written by the investigative journalist Georgianne Nienaber. Although Fossey’s death is officially unsolved, recently released documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, as well as testimony from the International War Crimes Tribunal proceedings, offer new suspects, motives, and opportunities. Every fact about Fossey’s life is meticulously annotated.[citation needed] However, the setting of her conversations with the murdered gorillas is obviously fictional, yet steeped in Rwandan tradition.[citation needed]

More recently, the Kentucky Opera Visions Program, in Louisville, has written an opera about Fossey. The opera, entitled Nyiramachabelli, premiered on May 23, 2006.

Harold Hayes' book The Dark Romance of Dian Fossey was published in 1989 and compares the story of Fossey with versions as seen by others. Rosamond Carr, former head of the orphanage in Gisenyi who saved the lives of more than a thousand children and who knew Fossey, states in her biography (Land of a Thousand Hills) that the "Dark Romance" book was based on plain lies, just as the article which preceded it and proved to be particularly damaging.

She is also prominently featured in a book by the Vanity Fair journalist Alex Shoumatoff called African Madness. Rosamond Carr was equally dismissive of that book's presentation of allegations.[16]

Film biography

Universal Studios bought the film rights to Gorillas in the Mist from Fossey in 1985, and Warner Bros. Studios bought the rights to the Hayes article, despite its having been severely criticized by Rosamond Carr. As a result of a legal battle between the two studios, a co-production was arranged.

Portions of Gorillas in the Mist and the Hayes article were adapted for Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey (1988), starring Sigourney Weaver. The book had covered Fossey's scientific career in great detail and omitted material on her personal life, such as her affair with photographer Bob Campbell. In the film, however, the affair with Campbell (played by Bryan Brown) formed a major subplot.

The Hayes article preceding the movie had portrayed Fossey as a woman completely obsessed with the gorillas, who would stop at nothing to protect them. And indeed the film included a fictitious scene in which Fossey orchestrated the mock hanging of a poacher, and another where she burned poachers' huts. It also introduced fictional characters, such as the animal trader Van Vecten, and changed the names of Fossey's students.

After making Gorillas in the Mist, Weaver became a supporter of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, and is now its Honorary Chair.[17]


"No I won't let them turn this mountain into a goddam zoo".

Dian Fossey in the movie Gorillas in the Mist (Universal Studios/Warner Bros 1988) and in the book "Woman in the Mist" by F. Mowat (Warner Books 1987)

Written works

  • Dian Fossey: Gorillas in the Mist, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1983
  • "An amiable giant: Fuertes's gorilla", Living Bird Quarterly 1(summer): 21–22, 1982
  • "Mountain gorilla research, 1974", Nat. Geogr. Soc. Res. Reps. 14: 243–258, 1982
  • "The imperiled mountain gorilla", National Geographic 159: 501–523, 1981
  • "Mountain gorilla research, 1971–1972", Nat. Geogr. Soc. Res. Reps. 1971 Projects, 12: 237–255, 1980
  • "Development of the mountain gorilla (Gorilla gorilla beringei) through the first thirty-six months", in The Great Apes 139–186 (D.A. Hamburg & E.R. McCown eds., Benjamin-Cummings), 1979
  • "Mountain gorilla research, 1969–1970", Nat. Geogr. Soc. Res. Reps. 1969 Projects, 11: 173–176, 1978
  • "His name was Digit", Int. Primate Protection League (IPPL) 5(2): 1–7, 1978
  • The behaviour of the mountain gorilla, Ph.D. diss. Cambridge University, 1976
  • "Observations on the home range of one group of mountain gorillas (Gorilla gorilla beringei)", Anim. Behav. 22: 568–581, 1974
  • "Vocalizations of the mountain gorilla (Gorilla gorilla beringei)", Anim. Behav. 20: 36-531972
  • "Living with mountain gorillas", in The Marvels of Animal Behavior 208–229 (T.B. Allen ed., National Geographic Society), 1972
  • "More years with mountain gorillas", Nat. Geogr. 140: 574–585, 1971
  • "Making friends with mountain gorillas", Nat. Geogr. 137: 48–67, 1970
  • D. Fossey & A.H. Harcourt: "Feeding ecology of free-ranging mountain gorilla (Gorilla gorilla beringei)", in Primate Ecology: Studies of Feeding and Ranging Behaviour in Lemurs, Monkeys and Apes 415–447 (T.H. Clutton-Brock ed., Academic Press), 1977

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Dian Fossey Life". Gorilla Fund. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  2. ^ "Dian Fossey text". National Geographic. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Mowat, Farley. Woman in the Mists: The Story of Dian Fossey and the Mountain Gorillas of Africa. Warner Books, 1987.
  4. ^ a b Fossey, Dian : Gorillas in the Mist. 1983
  5. ^ "Dian Fossey text - P5". National Geographic. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  6. ^ "Dian Fossey text - P6". National Geographic. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  7. ^ "The Real Dian Fossey". Big Wave TV. Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Karisoke Revisited - A Study of Dian Fossey". Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  9. ^ a b c d e "Dian Fossey". Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  10. ^ Current Biography, Jill Kadetsky, 1991, p. 121
  11. ^ About Dian Fossey - Info about the Life of Dian Fossey - DFGFI
  12. ^ Giants of the Jungle
  13. ^ "Dian Fossey". Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  14. ^ Salak, Kira. ""PLACES OF DARKNESS: AFRICA'S MOUNTAIN GORILLAS"". National Geographic Adventure. 
  15. ^ Salak, Kira. "Photos from "PLACES OF DARKNESS: AFRICA'S MOUNTAIN GORILLAS"". National Geographic Adventure. 
  16. ^ Carr, Rosamond. Land of a Thousand Hills. Blackstone, 2002.
  17. ^ The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

External links

Simple English

Dian Fossey (January 16, 1932December 26, 1985) was an American zoologist. She is most famous for studying gorillas in Rwanda, Africa.

Fossey studied the lives of mountain gorillas for many years. Some of the people who lived in the area did not like her because of her beliefs about how the gorillas should be treated. She did not want them in zoos or to be killed. Many people all over the world now think she is a hero for what she did to help gorillas. There is a movie that was made based on what she experienced in Africa. It is called Gorilla in the Mist. Her book, also named Gorillas in the Mist is the best selling book on gorillas of all time.

She later was recognized for saving mountain gorillas and started the successful fund to help raise money for gorillas everywhere.

Her death

After Fossey was molested by a group of unknown poachers, she was murdered in her cabin on December 26, 1985. Her head was cut by a panga, a local weapon used by poachers. Many people think poachers did this but there are other people who believe her murder was because of her beliefs against using the gorillas for tourism and financial gain. Fossey was buried at the site she created as a graveyard for the gorillas.

"When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future."

—The last words in Fossey's journal.

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