HELPING PEOPLE SAVING GORILLAS
Dian Fossey’s remarkable life was marked by many challenges and successes. Dian Fossey was born in San Francisco, California in 1932. Her parents had divorced when she was young, so Dian grew up with her mother and stepfather. At age 6, she began horseback riding lessons and in high school earned a letter on the riding team. Following graduation, Dian interned at various hospitals in California, working with tuberculosis patients. After less than a year she moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where She enjoyed working with the people of Kentucky and lived outside the city limits in a cottage on a farm where she enjoyed the experience on the farm, but she dreamed of seeing more of the world and its abundant wildlife. A friend of hers had been to Africa and brought home pictures and stories of her vacation. Once she had seen the photos and heard the stories, Dian decided that she must one day go there herself.
DIAN FOSSEY’S FIRST ENCOUNTERWITH GORILLAS
On Oct. 16, Dian went to the Travellers Rest, a small hotel in Uganda, close to the Virunga mountains and the mountain gorillas and after a few days, In December 1966, Dian was again on her way to Africa. She arrived in Nairobi, and with the help of Joan Root, whom she had met in 1963, acquired the necessary provisions and set off for the Congo, however, Dian made a stop to visit the Gombe Stream Research Centre to meet Jane Goodall and observe her research methods with chimpanzees. Soon, however, tracking the mountain gorillas would become her single focus Slowly, Dian settled into life at Kabara. Space was limited. Meals were prepared in a rundown wooden building and rarely included local fruits and vegetables, other than potatoes. Dian’s mainstay was tinned food and potatoes cooked in every way imaginable. Once a month, she would hike down the mountain to “Lily” and make the two-hour drive to the village of Kikumba to restock the pantry.
DIAN FOSSEY LEARNS TO HABITUATE THE GORILLAS
Initially, the gorillas would flee into the vegetation as soon as she approached. Observing them openly and from a distance, over time, Dian Fossey was eventually able to gain their acceptance. She put the gorillas at ease by imitating regular activities like scratching and feeding as well as copying their contentment vocalizations. Through her observations, she was also able to begin identifying the individuals that made up each group. So it was that on Sept. 24, 1967, Dian Fossey established the Karisoke™ Research Center. “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 the camp.