Dian Fossey was born in San Francisco, California in 1932. Her strong interest in animals led her to enter college as a pre-veterinary student. Soon, however, she switched to occupational therapy and obtained her degree from San Jose State College.
Through friends, Dian Fossey became interested in Africa and made a six-week trip there in 1963. At Olduvai Gorge, she met Dr. Louis Leakey who impressed on her the importance of doing research on great apes. This meeting inspired her to study mountain gorillas.
Determined to work in Africa, Dian won support from the National Geographic Society and the Wilkie Foundation in 1966 for a research program in Zaire. Political upheaval there forced her to move to Rwanda, wherein 1967 she established Karisoke, a research camp in the Volcanoes National Park. In 1970, her efforts to get the gorillas to habituate to her presence were finally rewarded when Peanuts, an adult male, touched her hand. This was the first friendly gorilla to human contact ever recorded.
Dian was murdered in 1985 in 1985 by poachers and was buried near Karisoke research center, nestled between the beautiful peaks of Bisoke and Karisimbi. Many tourists visit her tombs as a way of appreciating her great works of saving and habituating the mountain gorillas.
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