Many articles have been written about Dian Fossey. Many films have been produced about this wonderful woman who loved the mountain gorillas. There are countless stories that have been told about her. Even her death still remains a mystery up to date.
But thanks to Dian Fossey, the selfless woman who lived alone with the mountain gorillas in the forests, her favorite one called Digit, killed by poachers,and now resting besides her between Karisimbi and Bisoke, the mountain gorillas can now have a smile on their faces due to her efforts to save them.
Why do we say so?
According to the latest census, the mountain gorilla population has for the first time surpassed the 1000 mark since official records began. The survey showed that there are 604 mountain gorillas in the Virunga massif, and most of them are in Rwanda. 400 are found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda. Combined, this takes the total to 1,004.
According to Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, she was born on January 16, 1932, in San Francisco, California. While working as an occupational therapist, Fossey became interested in primates during a trip to Africa in 1963. She studied the endangered gorillas of the Rwandan mountain forest for two decades before her unsolved murder occurred in 1985, at Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Fossey told her story in the book Gorillas in the Mist (1983), which was later adapted for a film starring Sigourney Weaver.
But despite her efforts, on the early morning of December 27, 1985 (only two days after Christmas), she was found brutally murdered in the bedroom of her cabin she was staying at Karisoke Camp at that time.
According to official statistics, between 1959 and 1960, there were 400 to 500 gorillas. Between 1971 and 1973, there were 260 and 290 gorillas. The popolation decreased between 1976 and 1978 where there were 252 and 285 gorillas. The population further decreased according to 1981 to around 242 and 266 gorillas. This was mostly due rampant poaching experienced during that period.
However, acccording 1986, there was a significant population growth of the gorillas, where between 252 and 285 individuals were recorded. The growth continued according to 1989 census where 324 gorillas were counted.
The 2003 Census for gorillas recorded 380 gorillas, representing a 17% growth increase since 1989. This represented a 1.15 % annual growth.
The mountain gorillas continued to smile later on, since according to 2010 Census, there were 480 counted mountain gorillas. Dian Fossey didn't just die with a whimper. She died with a bang. After her death, great awareness about the gorillas are now known all over the world.
According to Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, today, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund operates the Karisoke Research Center and is a leader in saving critically endangered gorillas in Africa, with 160 field staff engaged in daily gorilla protection, scientific study, educational initiatives, and support to improve lives of local human communities.
“If it were not for Dian Fossey, mountain gorillas would likely be extinct today. She was their greatest champion, and started what is now the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund to pay for anti-poaching patrols at a time when the gorillas were being decimated by poachers,” says Dr. Tara Stoinski, who leads the Fossey Fund today as president and CEO/chief scientific officer.
On 7th September 2018, Rwanda is going to celebrate a unique gorilla baby naming ceremony called Kwita Izina. This is a special event in the country's calendar where 23 baby gorillas are going to be given names this year.
This couldn't have happened without the efforts of Dian Fossey who raised worldwide awareness about the primates. Therefore, this day should also pay tribute to her efforts to save these once endangered species. It's also a celebration of Rwanda's continued efforts to save them through different programs like community revenue sharing programs, where 10 percent of money accrued from tourism goes back to the community through building of schools, health centers and roads so that local community surrounding the parks do not involve themselves in poaching.
Virunga Community Programs also takes time to salute this great woman through which her efforts has led to creating awareneness about mountain gorilla conservation. We also would thank different organisations worldwide who have made these endagered species survive, and the the governments of Rwandam DRC and Uganda through their conservation programs.