In the early hours of December 27, 1985, Dian Fossey was murdered in her cabin by an unknown attacker — “No One Loved Gorillas More” are the words inscribed on her gravestone.
She was born 82 years ago today. Google is celebrating her birthday with today’s Google Doodle, an image featuring a group of mountain gorillas, one of them playing with her hair, while she makes notes.
In 1966, Dian began her research in the Congo, moving to Rwanda when the political situation in the former became too unstable to continue working there. Funded by the National Geographic Society, she founded the Karisoke Research Centre in Rwanda Parc National des Volcans.
Dian lived among the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, studying them daily over a period of 18 years. We know much of what we know about these magnificent creatures because of her extensive research into their numbers, their habits, and the threats that face them daily.
When her favorite gorilla, Digit, was killed by poachers for his hands (to be used as ashtrays!), Dian began a campaign against poaching in earnest. This put her firmly at odds with not only poachers, but also Rwandan officials and tourism interests. Her outspokenness, indefatigable obstinacy and unstinting determination, unfortunately, made her a target of violence.
In 1985, Dian was murdered in her cabin in Karisoke. The case remains unsolved.
Considered one of the world’s foremost primatologists, Dian was made famous by the moving and inspirational film “Gorillas in the Mist” released in 1988.
It is a moving tribute on many levels, but I’d like to think that Dian would want us not solely admire the testimony to her life’s work, but to mainly focus on the message it communicates. The last entry in her diary before being murdered by those who opposed her work read:
When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future.
Given the challenges they face today, I have to wonder if there’d be any wild mountain gorillas left in Rwanda and Uganda if Dian had not advocated for them. Thanks to her work, the world’s awareness of their plight has increased, and they are now protected by Rwandan government and various international conservation organizations, including the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.
One of the foremost ecological heroes of the 20th century, Dian Fossey’s passion lives on today in those who continue to carry the torch of her work.
If you’d like to help Dian’s cause in Second Life, you can talk with me about sponsorship opportunities for Paradise Lost, or simply give directly at the Playhouse. 50% of all proceeds from sponsorship go directly to WWF Adopt-a-Gorilla Program. 100% of all donations to the two gorillas in the Basilique Playhouse go to the same fund.