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Home     |     Gorilla Trekking in UGANDA     |     Gorilla Trekking in RWANDA     |     Dian Fossey's Legacy



Dian Fossey
Her Research and Sacrifice will Forever Live on

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No mention of a Mountain Gorilla Safari would be complete without mention of the many years that the late Dian Fossey dedicated to researching and living with these gentle mountain gorilla giants in the forests and mountains of Rwanda, during which time she wrote her book 'Gorillas in The Mist', which later was made into the Hollywood movie, 'Gorillas in the Mist'.

Though Gorillas natural mountain habitat is in the corner of the three countries, Congo, Uganda & Rwanda, Dian Fossey chose to set up her research in the mountains of theVolcanoes National Park of Rwanda.


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Dian Fossey, January 16, 1932 – December 26, 1985, was an American zoologist who undertook an extensive study of mountain gorillas 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.  Later Dian's research turned to conservation of the mountain gorilla population and her solo fight against poachers who eventually overpowered her.

Dian Fossey was murdered in 1985 and the case still remains open to this day.

The Late Dian Fossey

Dian Fossey with her  Rwanda Mountain Gorillas

Considered as one of the foremost primatologists in the world while she was alive, Dian Fossey, along with Jane Goodall and Birute Galdikas, was part of the so-called Leakey's Angels, a group of three prominent women researchers on primates (Dian Fossey on Mountain Gorillas; Goodall on Chimpanzees; and Galdikas on Orangutans) sent by archaeologist Louis Leakey to study great apes in their natural environments.

Dian Fossey made discoveries about mountain gorillas including how females transfer from group to group, how raiding silverbacks will sometimes kill the infants of a raided group so the mothers can have his offspring, and how gorillas recycle nutrients. Fossey's research was funded by the Wilkie Foundation and the Leakey Foundation, with primary funding from the National Geographic Society.

Dian Fossey at play with her Rwanda Mountain Gorillas


It was Dian Fossey who brought Rwanda's mountain gorillas to fame, and she was instrumental
in saving the mountain gorillas from extinction by poachers.

When her photograph, taken by Bob Campbell, appeared on the cover of National Geographic Magazine in January 1970, Dian Fossey became an international celebrity, bringing massive publicity to her cause of saving the mountain gorillas from extinction, as well as convincing the general public that gorillas are not as fierce as they are sometimes depicted in Hollywood movies and books.

Photographs showing the gorilla "Peanuts" touching the hand of Dian Fossey 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.

Dian Fossey set up the International Gorilla Fund
- Gorilla protection in Africa, through anti-poaching and daily monitoring, is central to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International’s historic mission. The many ways we protect gorillas have helped to stabilize the mountain gorilla population in Rwanda. We are now we are working to have the same impact on Grauer’s gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Karisoke Research Centre in Rwanda was founded by Dian Fossey on 24th September 1967. The camp was located in Rwanda, between Mt. Karisimbi and Mt. Visoke, and was therefore given a name which was a mixture of these two mountains.

Over and above her research she fought against poachers who killed mountain gorillas for body parts to make witch doctors medicines. She buried all slain mountain gorillas in the gorilla cemetery which she established. After her murder she to was buried high up in the mountains next to her beloved gorillas.

The reason for Dian Fossey savage murder has never been established though it is generally thought that she may have been murdered by poachers. On December 26, 1985 Dian Fossey's skull had been split open by a Panga (machete) a tool widely used by poachers.


Dian Fossey researched mountain gorillas for 18 years studying Gorilla behaviour
The Dian Fossey reseach centre at Karisoke
Dian Fossey was laid to rest in her Gorilla cemetary


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