About Dian Fossey
Dian Fossey (pronounced /daɪˈæn ˈfɒsi/, January 16, 1932 – December 26, 1985) was an American zoologist who undertook an extensive study of gorilla groups over a period of 18 years. She studied them daily in the mountain forests of Rwanda, initially encouraged to work there by famous anthropologist Louis Leakey. She was murdered in 1985, the case remains open.
Called one of the foremost primatologists in the world while she was alive, Fossey, along with Jane Goodall and Birutė Galdikas, was part of the so-called Leakey's Angels, a group of three prominent researchers on primates (Fossey on Gorillas; Goodall on Chimpanzees; and Galdikas on Orangutans) sent by archaeologist Louis Leakey to study great apes in their natural environments.
Fossey made discoveries about gorillas including how females transfer from group to group, how raiding silverbacks will sometimes kill the infants of a raided group so the mothers can have his children, and how gorillas recycle nutrients. Fossey's research was funded by the Wilkie Foundation and the Leakey Foundation, with primary funding from the National Geographic Society.
When her photograph, taken by Bob Campbell, appeared on the cover of National Geographic Magazine in January 1970, Fossey became an international celebrity, bringing massive publicity to her cause of saving the mountain gorilla from extinction, as well as convincing the general public that gorillas are not as fierce as they are sometimes depicted in movies and books. Photographs showing the gorilla "Peanuts" touching Fossey's hand depicted the first recorded peaceful contact between a human being and a wild gorilla. Her extraordinary rapport with animals and her background as an occupational therapist brushed away the Hollywood "King Kong" myth of an aggressive, savage beast.
 Cornell University and autobiography
By 1980, Fossey was recognised as the world's leading authority on the physiology and behaviour of mountain gorillas, defining gorillas as being "dignified, highly social, gentle giants, with individual personalities, and strong family relationships."
Fossey lectured as professor at Cornell University in 1981-1983. Her bestselling book Gorillas in the Mist was praised by Nikolaas Tinbergen, the Dutch ethologist and ornithologist who won the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Her book remains the best-selling book about gorillas.
Interest in Africa:
Fossey became friends with Mary White "Gaynee" Henry, secretary to the chief administrator at the hospital and wife of one of the doctors, Michael J. Henry. Fossey turned down an offer to join the couple on an African tour due to lack of finances, but in 1963 she borrowed $8,000 (one year's salary), and went on a seven-week visit to Africa.
In September 1963, she arrived in Nairobi, Kenya.Whilst there, she met actor William Holden, owner of Treetops Hotel, who introduced her to her safari guide, John Alexander. Alexander became her guide for the next seven weeks through Kenya, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Zimbabwe. Alexander's route included visits to Tsavo, Africa’s largest national park, the saline lake of Manyara, famous for attracting giant flocks of flamingos, and the Ngorongoro Crater, well-known for its abundant wildlife.The final two sites for her visit were Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania (the archeological site of Louis and Mary Leakey); and Mt. Mikeno in Congo, where in 1959, American zoologist George Schaller had carried out a yearlong pioneering study of the mountain gorilla. At Olduvai Gorge, Fossey met Leakey and his wife while they were examining the area for hominid fossils. Leakey talked to Fossey about the work of Jane Goodall and the importance of long-term research of the great apes. Although she had broken her ankle while visiting the Leakeys, by October 16, Fossey was staying in Walter Baumgartel's small hotel in Uganda, the Travellers Rest. Baumgartel, an advocate of gorilla conservation, was among the first to see the benefits that tourism could bring to the area, and he introduced Fossey to Kenyan wildlife photographers Joan and Alan Root. The couple agreed to allow Fossey and Alexander to camp behind their own camp, and it was during these few days that Fossey first encountered wild mountain gorillas. After staying with friends in Rhodesia, Fossey returned home to Louisville to repay her loans. She published three articles in The Courier-Journal newspaper, detailing her visit to Africa.
During her African safari, Fossey met Alexie Forrester, the brother of an African she had been dating in Louisville; Fossey and Forrester later became engaged. Referring to leaving for her research study in 1966, in later interviews Fossey would comment that "I left my appendix and fiancé in the states."
Fossey then became involved with National Geographic photographer Bob Campbell after a year of working together at Karisoke, with Campbell promising to leave his wife. Eventually the pair grew apart through her dedication to the gorillas and Karisoke, along with his need to work further afield and his marriage. In 1970, during her time in Cambridge to get her Ph.D., she discovered she was pregnant and got an abortion, later commenting that "you can't be a cover girl for National Geographic Magazine and be pregnant."Fossey had other relationships throughout the years and a love for children.
Since Fossey would rescue any abused or abandoned animal she saw in Africa or near Karisoke, she acquired a menagerie in the camp, including a monkey who lived in her cabin, Kima, and a dog, Cindy. Fossey held Christmas parties every year for her researchers, staffers, and their families, and she developed a genuine friendship with Jane Goodall.
Fossey had been plagued by lung problems from an early age, and later in her life, Fossey suffered from advanced emphysema brought on by years of heavy cigarette smoking. As the debilitating disease progressed— further aggravated by the high mountain altitude and damp climate— Fossey found it increasingly harder to conduct meaningful field research, frequently suffering from shortness of breath and requiring the help of an oxygen tank when climbing or hiking long distances.
Fossey was found murdered in the bedroom of her cabin in Virunga Mountains, Rwanda on December 27, 1985. The last entry in her diary read:
“When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate on the preservation of the future.”
Fossey's skull had been split by a panga (machete), a tool widely used by poachers, which she had confiscated years earlier and hung as a decoration on the wall of her living room adjacent to her bedroom. Fossey was found dead beside her bed, with her gun beside her, but the ammunition didn't fit the weapon. The cabin showed signs of a struggle as there was broken glass on the floor and tables along with other furniture overturned. All Fossey's valuables were still in the cabin - thousands of dollars in cash, travelers' checks, and photo equipment remained untouched. She was 2 metres (6.6 ft) away from a hole cut in the wall of the cabin on the day of her murder.
Fossey is interred at Karisoke, in a site that she herself had constructed for her dead gorilla friends. She was buried in the gorilla graveyard next to Digit, and near many gorillas killed by poachers. Memorial services were also held in New York, Washington, and California.
Fossey's will stated that all her money (including proceeds from the film of Gorillas in the Mist) should go to the Digit Fund to finance anti-poaching patrols. However, her mother Kitty Price challenged the will and won.