Dian Fossey was born on January 16th, 1932, in San Francisco, California and grew up with her mother and stepfather. She began to develop a connection for animals at a young age, throughout her youth. She was a keen horseback rider and an aspiring veterinarian. But, after enrolling in pre-veterinary studies at the University of California, she transferred to San Jose State College and changed her major to occupational therapy.
After graduating Dian worked as a hospital intern for several months in California and moved to Louisville, Kentucky, where she began serving as director of the Kosair Crippled Children’s Hospital’s occupational therapy department in 1955.She soon became restless, longing to see other parts of the world and setting her sights on Africa.
Back in Kentucky, Dian Fossey caught up with Louis Leakey (the anthropologist who encouraged her) at a lecture in Louisville in 1966, and he invited her to take on a long-term study of the endangered gorillas in the mountain forests of Rwanda. Dian accepted the offer, and later lived among the mountain gorillas in the popular Republic of Congo until civil war was forced her to escape to Rwanda.
Dian wrote a book in 1983 called ‘Gorillas in the Mist’, which includes scientific information about the mountain gorilla at Karisoke Research Center with her own personal story. It was turned into a 1988 film.
Dian Fossey became the world’s leading authority on the mountain gorillas. She spent two decades researching them and helps protecting them from the poachers. A poacher is a person who hunts down and kills animals or fish illegally.
After Dian finished writing her book ‘Gorillas in the Mist’. Dian’s favourite gorilla, Digit, was killed by poachers on New Year’s Day. Dian was upset and furious at the poachers. She held poachers as prisoners, tortured them, frightened them and threatened to kidnap their children, hoping they will see what gorillas were experiencing.
Considered the world’s leading authority on the physiology and behaviour of mountain gorillas, Dian fought hard to protect the gorillas from the poachers. She saw these animals as impressive, highly social creatures with individual personalities and strong family relationships. Her busy conservationist stands to save these animals from zoo poachers and government officials who wanted to convert gorillas not only via the media, but also by destroying poachers’ dogs and traps.
Tragically, on December 26th, 1985, Dian Fossey was found murdered, possibly by the hands of a poacher, at her camp in the Rwandan forest. The murderer killed her using a machete; it had split her face and skull open. The person who had murdered Dian was never found and nobody knows who killed her. She was buried in a plain, plywood coffin with her beloved gorillas.