Dian Fossey

Primatologist, Naturalist, and Zoologist

Dian Fossey

Dian Fossey is a zoologist, best known for her research on endangered gorillas, and her mysterious murder in the Virunga Mountains, when she was studying the gorillas in the Rwandan Mountain Forest in 1985. Dian was born on January 16, 1932, in San Francisco California. She grew up with her mother and step-father, and as she was growing up, she developed a love for animals. She loved to horse-back ride, and took a job as a veterinary assistant. She went to college at the University of California, but later switched to San Jose State College, and changed her classes to study occupational Therapy. When she graduated, she started working as a hospital intern, and lived on a farm on the outskirts of Louisville. While she was working as a therapist in the hospital, she wanted to see other parts of the world, and became interested in the study of primates on a trip to Africa in 1963.

All of Her Work

Dian Fossey was one of the top known Zoologists in the world, but it wasn't easy getting there. She faced many challenges, she first needed someone to support her research, to give money to set up a research camp. She traveled to Africa, and found Louis and Mary Leaky, famous scientists researching about the evolution from ape to human. After she got started, she had to get the gorillas trust. She spent years copying their motions and sounds, and eventually she could sit among them, play with them, and feed them. Soon she traveled back to America, and spent a year taking university classes to be a doctor. When she traveled back to Africa, she found poachers, hunters taking gorillas from the mountains, and earning money from selling their heads, hands, and feet. The remains were buried in a special place near her research base. She tried all she could to dismantle the traps the hunters set up, defying the governments wishes to shop down the forest for farmland, and to send people there to set up a tour for tourists to come. Later, she found that Digit, a gorilla she spent years working with and researching, dead. She felt as if an old friend had died. That was it, she was going to get back at the hunters. She started to threaten the government, and the hunters who took the gorillas. When she finally caught the poachers in action, she took the knives they were using, and banned them from the forest. She hung the machetes in the living room of her cabin as a prize, and was proud of it. One night someone broke into her cabin, either the poachers or someone the Government sent, no one knows. She was found a few hours later, dead a few meters away from her bed. The same machete had split her skull, and the killer later broke a wall from her house to escape. There is a good side, and a bad side to this. The good side is that there was no sign of a struggle in the cabin, and there was relatively little blood flow from the wound, meaning that she must have been dead before the machete ended up in her skull, and the killer just did that to make a statement. The bad news is the killer was never caught. Dian Fossey may have died in very tragic circumstances, but her and her foundation has made a big change in the world. When Dian Fossey started researching the gorillas, there was only about 200 in the world. Now there is at least 880, and growing quickly thanks to her research.

Her Failures And Challenges

Dian Fossey ran into many challenges on her way to being one of the most recognized Zoologists ever. No one quite knows but she changed her mind in college that she didn't want to be a vet, which might have decreased some time that she could have helped the gorillas. Next she needed money to get to Africa, and a sponsor to give her the equipment she needed. When she ran into the poachers and the legal and governmental issues, that might have been her biggest challenge ever. She needed to outsmart the Government and the poachers, and that was very risky. Not very many people get away with defying the Government's wishes, and especially not people who aren't even classified as a citizen. Eventually she did pay her price, and the price was her life.