Dian Fossey

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to go to Africa and live with gorillas? Well Dian Fossey did just that! Dian was born on January 16, 1932 in Fairfax, California, that's near San Francisco. Her parents got divorced when Dian was young. She thought she might want to be a veterinarian when she first went to college. She graduated from San Jose State College with a degree in occupational therapy. She got a job at Kosair Children's Hospital and moved to Louisville, Kentucky.

Dian traveled to Africa in 1963. She was fascinated when she saw her first mountain gorilla. She met Dr. Louis Leakey who inspired her to want to study the mountain gorilla. She went to Zaire in Africa in 1966. After six months, some soldiers came up to her camp and told her Zaire was not safe for her. So she packed some personal belongs and left. She was able to get past the border by bribing to the guards. Dian set up her research camp, Karisoke, in Rwanda in 1967. In 1970 she made history when a gorilla named Peanut touched her hand. In the mountains she developed an everlasting love for gorillas. She was able to earn the trust of the gorillas she was studying. In 1978, Dian's favorite gorilla, Digit, was killed by poachers on New Year's Day. When National Geographic ran a story about Dian's work, it led to many donations. She started the Digit Fund (later renamed the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund,) it helped to save the mountain gorillas that were being so brutally killed. Dian dedicated her life to the protection of the gorilla. 

In 1980 Dian got her Ph.D. at Cambridge University on England and took a job at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. At Cornell she began to write the book, Gorillas in the Mist. It later became a movie. By then there were only about 250 gorillas in the world. Her book got lots of attention focused on the problem. After she finished writing the book she went back to Karisoke to go on with her work with the gorillas.

In December 27, 1985 at the age of 54 Dian Fossey was murdered.  To this day no one knows who killed her. She was buried in a plain, plywood coffin with her beloved gorillas. The government of Rwanda now protects the mountain gorilla from poachers.

Image courtesy of The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

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By Chetan, DJ, & Tyriek, fourth grade, 2004