Lonely woman of forests

"She lost her connection with the people. What a pity that she never became a gorilla." - said one of her colleague about Dian

Neither destiny nor fate took me to Africa. Not even romance. I had a deep wish to see and live with wild animals in a world that hadn’t yet been completely changed by humans.” – said Dian Fossey, who fought passionately for almost two decades to save the mountain gorillas from extinction in the Virunga-Mountains, East-Africa.

On 27th December in 1985. at dawn loud cries were heard in the Karisoke Research Center: “Dian kufa! Dian kufa!” It means in Swahili: “Dian died!” Wayne McGuire american scientific research ran across Dian’s house. She lain on the floor, next to the bed. An unknown murderer cut her skull into two pieces with a brush cutter blade, which Dian confiscated from a poacher few years ago. Her body was buried a few days later in the Center’s animal cemetery next to the gorilla’s resting place. Who wished this wonderful woman’s death?

She was six years old when her parents divorced. The lonely little girl only wanted animal friends, but she has only a gold fish. Dian wanted to be a veterinarian, but her dream wasn’t realized yet. She became a rehabilitation psychologist and treated emotionally unstable and physically disabled children. Her interest aroused about the black continent by a man from Rhodesia. In 1963, she traveled to East Africa for the first time. In Tanzania she met Louis Leakey, the famous anthropologist who one day asked what is her biggest dream. She said to see mountain gorillas in the Virunga. Like a tourist or a journalist asked the professor. “It’s much more than that. My plan is to move and to work there one day.” – answered Dian. A few days later she met with the first gorilla. It was the crucial moment in her life, she decided that she will be live with the gorillas. Four years later she back there and formed the Karisoke Research Center support of the National Geographic Society.

At first only from a safe distance watched the huge, innocent animals. Later, the gorillas accepted her friendship. Dian learned their body language. For example she realized that if she crouch, she can’t scare them away, because less than the head of the family. Or the sign of friendship if she cross her arms. She sat for hours with them and acted as if she also eat wild celeriac, which is one of favorite dish of gorillas.

The natives called her “nyiramachabelli” which means: Lonely women of forests. Dian collected significant material about life of gorillas.  Largely because of her merit, that this endangered species evaded from extinction. Her methods are the subject of intense debate. She had close contact with the mountain gorillas, which have gone beyond the border of scientific interest and normal love of animals. But as far as the gorillas loved, so hated poachers who destroyed the natural habitat of animals and killed them irresponsibly. Diana chased them relentlessly. However, not only was with poachers conflict, but the Rwandan authorities too. The Rwandan government wanted to open  the  scenic volcanic park to tourists. Dian opposed this, saying her gorillas aren’t zoo creatures. She threatened that if only one tourist approach to the Research Center, she will shoot him. Because of her stubborn determination she had more and more  enemies, no doubt one of them was an unknown killer who brutally murdered her.

From her death to the Rwandan genocide (1994), her former students managed the Karisoke Research Center. During the Civil War forests filled with masses of refugees in the Virunga Mountains. The camp was completely looted and destroyed. Today there are only ruins and an old wooden house, as a memorial museum.

Written by Ilona Kaszanyi

Reference: A múlt nagy rejtélyei – original title: Wie geschab es wirklich? – pages 208-209.


4 thoughts on “Lonely woman of forests

  1. Ilona I have never been able to read Diane Fosseys full story or watch the movie made of her life as I find the story very sad. Sad from the point of view that this woman dedicated her life to trying to save these beautiful Gorillas from poachers and other people wanting to destroy their habitat. Thank you though for this article. I have shared on FB.

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