Written By Ananya Agarwal (Grade 7)
Dian Fossey known as the gorilla woman, the person who gave her whole life to wildlife. She was instrumental in helping and preserving animal rights also.
She was born in San Francisco, California on 26th December, 1932. Her parents got divorced when she was very young, and it affected her in a quite impactful way. She lost touch with her father and her step-father wasn’t very good to her. He didn’t allow her to sit on the dining table with her mother and provided her with almost no emotional support. This really affected her like it would to any other person. And as people say “Animals are such agreeable friends—they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms.” She also turned to animals to gain acceptance and love.
Dian was a bright student in school. She went to a couple of colleges including University of Cambridge where she received her degree in zoology. In her early life, she also worked in different fields and areas that interested her. Her life changed when she met Louis Leakey (Kenyan-British paleoanthropologist) and told him that she wanted to research Gorillas.
After that, with the help of Leakey and other people, she finally set up a camp in Congo and started her research. She saw other people observe animals and how they learnt about them, she learnt the basics about gorilla tracking and other activities of gorillas. She did intensive research about three distinct groups of gorillas in her area but couldn’t get close enough to them. She eventually realised that mimicking their actions such as scratching and making grunting noises and eating the local celery plant made them feel secure. She heavily relied on individual nose-prints for identification initially via sketching then later via photographs.
But then, Dian had come to Africa during turbulent times. When a new government took over, Dian had to escape from there and come back to the States.
After that, she founded a new research camp in Rehungeri. It was a remote rain forest camp and she named it the ‘Karisoke Research Centre’. Then she started researching here and was successful also. But at first, the gorillas’ were scared of her as they were not used to humans, only poachers and used to get scared. But over time, they got accustomed to her being around them.
Apart from her research, she also raised awareness against poaching and tourism in wildlife. Although poaching was banned in the forests, the law was rarely enforced. Fossey really helped to arrest many of them, some even got sentenced to prison. Apart from this, she was also against tourism in wildlife as she thought that gorillas were suspectable to human diseases such as influenza and really suffered greatly because of it. She also thought of tourism as an activity that interfered with their natural wild behaviour.
Unfortunately, she died in 1985. It is believed to be an act of murder in her bedroom in her cabin in the camp. But we mustn’t forget the important work which she did for the wildlife, and we should also always be kind to animals and respect them after all even they are living beings like us.
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