Mountain Gorilla : Article by Adrian Warren ....Page 5 of 6
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by Adrian Warren
Gorilla Graveyard/ Dian Fossey's Grave, Karisoke research centre, Virunga Volcanoes, Rwanda
Dian Fossey's Grave, Karisoke research centre, Virunga Volcanoes, Rwanda
Her programme of habituation proved that the gorillas would accept peaceful visits by humans, an achievement regarded by the Government of Rwanda as a possible resource to be exploited by tourism for financial gain. Dian fought the idea with grim determination and this, combined with the severity of her actions against poachers, made many enemies for her. Nobody seems to want to tell the events of the night of 25 December 1985 but, in the early hours of the morning in her cabin at Karisoke, an intruder hacked Dian to death with a machete, a fate which she surely did not deserve. It is perhaps curiously symbolic to the dedication of both Carl Akeley and Dian Fossey that they both died and were buried here in the Virungas; Dian at Karisoke close to the graves of "Digit" and other gorillas that died during her time there; and Akeley at Kabara, in Zaire, following an during a return expedition in 1926.
Karisoke still functions as an important base for international research; biologists come and go, some studying the gorillas, and some focusing on other aspects of the environment and its wildlife. Karisoke is still funded by the "Digit" fund, although it has recently been re-named "The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund". But this is not the only organisation involved in funding conservation and management of mountain gorillas; the British based Fauna and Flora Preservation Society, which had responded quickly to the "Digit" appeal in February 1978, re-appraised its fund raising in April of that year in order to broaden the effectiveness of gorilla conservation throughout the Parc des Volcans and to strengthen the Rwandan influence on management. The Mountain Gorilla Project was launched in July 1978 by FFPS in collaboration with the People's Trust for Endangered Species.
The philosophy of the Mountain Gorilla Project were three mutually reinforcing programmes: park protection, tourist development and conservation education and by early 1979, the World Wildlife Fund and the African Wildlife Foundation joined the Mountain Gorilla Project consortium and fieldwork began in September of that year. Meanwhile, in Zaire, the Frankfurt Zoological Society established the Zaire Gorilla Conservation Project in 1984; and, in 1986, the Impenetrable (Bwindi) Forest Conservation Project was established in Uganda. In 1988, the Morris Animal Foundation, affiliated with the Digit Fund, established the Virunga Veterinary Centre to deal with veterinary research and veterinary measures in gorilla conservation. The Mountain Gorilla Project decided, in 1979, to withdraw its field operation in Rwanda, replacing it with the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, supporting the conservation of all mountain gorilla and eastern lowland gorilla populations and their habitats. The Karisoke Research Centre, still supported by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, continues its research and local protection work.
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