Dian Fossey

For more than 20 years, Dr. Dian Fossey lived among the mountain gorillas of the Virunga mountains, at first studying the great apes and then, slowly becoming their friend and protector.

A respected and pioneering primatologist, Dr. Fossey soon became best-known for her conservation work. Despite facing both economic and political obstacles, she successfully fought to establish the first dedicated ranger patrols. Alongside her research and frontline conservation, she also made it her mission to bring the plight of the great apes to the world’s attention.

Though Dr. Fossey’s robust approach to conservation and fierce determination to safeguard the gorillas she lived alongside may have been controversial and even made her a few enemies, both in Rwanda and elsewhere in the world, there’s no doubt that she played a vital role in saving mountain gorillas from extinction.

In 1978, Dian Fossey established the Digit Fund, named after one of her favourite gorillas, Digit, who was brutally murdered by poachers that same year. The Digit Fund helped finance vital ranger patrols through the gorilla habitat, keeping gorillas safe from hunters. Meanwhile her autobiography and the 1987 Hollywood movie made about her life (“Gorillas in the Mist”) helped make gorilla conservation a global concern.

Tragically, Dr. Fossey died in 1985, killed in the lush forests she had called home for two decades. However, her legacy lives on. Her work inspired a new generation of African conservationists, giving the gorillas new hope. Meanwhile, the original Digit Fund would lay the foundations for The Gorilla Organization, which continues to work tirelessly to ensure her work was not in vain.