30 Sec's on....



You know, one of my most favorite woman in the world is Dian Fossey.

Who the hell is she, when she's at home?

Good question, 99!

She was an American Primatologist and Conservationist.  Roughly translated, she was a driving force in protecting and studying the mountain gorilla's in Rhwanda.

I know!  How fucking cool!

Anyway, Dian was born on 16th January, 1932, in San Francisco, California. She lived her earlier years with her Mum and Step-dad and always loved animals. 

However, when she got older and went to college, instead of animals, Dian focussed on business.

The first change on her Destiny's Path happened at 19, when she went to work on a horse ranch during her school break.

Unfortunately, she was forced to leave when she caught chicken pox, but the experience changed her life.  She went back to College and moved from business to pre-veterinary student.  Here she hit her first road block - she found the chemistry and physics courses too challenging, so she switched again.  This time to Occupational Therapy, graduating in 1954. Dian worked with TB patients and ended up at Kosair Crippled Childrens Hopsital in Kentucky. 

Things changed radically for Dian though when one of her friends went to Africa...and came back with the most fantastic stories and photos.  Dian decided right then, that she had to visit Africa and in 1963, using all her savings and a bank loan, she headed off to Kenya.  

Her trip included visits to Tanzania, Congo, and Zimbabwe. John Alexander, a British hunter, served as her guide. The route he planned included 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 on her tour were Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania — the archaeological site of Louis and Mary Leakey — and Mt. Mikeno in Congo, where in 1959 American zoologist Dr. George Schaller carried out a pioneering study of the mountain gorilla. Schaller was the first person to conduct a reliable field study of the mountain gorillas. 

Visiting with Dr. Louis Leakey at Olduvai Gorge was the pivotal moment in her life though.  He spoke to her of the new work being done by Jane Goodall re chimpanzees in Tanzania.

Her trip finished and she came back home, re-starting work at the children's hopsital.  In her spare time though she wrote many articles with photos of her trip, most of which got published.

Then in 1966 her life changed forever when a lecture tour brought Dr. Louis Leakey to Louisville, and she was able to show him her published stories and photos.  Her passion and persistence got her invited onto his new study.  

She went back to Africa in 1967. She lived in a tent, learnt how to track, how to "Read" the gorilla's, the heirachy, rules and regulations, got caught in a Rebellion and had many encounters with poachers.

There was one gorilla with whom she formed a particularly close bond with though. She named him Digit, because he had a damaged finger on his right hand.  He was about 5 years old and had no playmates his age in his group. He was drawn to her and her to him. Over time, a true friendship formed.

On December 31, 1977, Digit was killed by poachers.

He died helping to defend his group, allowing them to escape safely. He was stabbed multiple times and his head and hands were severed. Dian Fossey then declared war on the poachers: wearing masks to scare poachers, burning snares, spray-painting cattle to discourage herders from bringing them into the park, and, on occasion, taking on poachers directly, forcing confrontation.

Three years later, in 1980, Dian moved to Ithaca, New York, to focus on the manuscript for her book, Gorillas in the Mist about her years in the rainforest with the mountain gorillas, Digit and poachers.

Missing Africa, Dian then went back to Rhwanda, but just before her 54th Birthday, on the morning of December 27, 1985, her body was found in her cabin.

She had been struck twice on the head and face with a machete. 

She was laid to rest in the graveyard behind her cabin at Karisoke, Rhwanda, among her gorilla friends, and next to her beloved Digit.

Nobody was ever arrested and charged with her murder.

More than a decade later as I now sit writing these words at camp, the same stretch of alpine meadow is visible from my desk window. The sense of exhilaration I felt when viewing the heartland of the Virungas for the first time from those distant heights, is as vivid now as though it had occurred only a short time ago. I have made my home among the mountain gorillas.

— Gorillas in the Mist, Dian Fossey, Karisoke (1967)

Wishing you much love and abundance and a truly courageous heart.

T and Spirit


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