by Do234 on March 30, 2015 - 10:54pm
Of all the people who worked in the past to protect animals, Dian Fossey has been an important pillar in the domain of conservationism. Born in 1932 in San Francisco, she worked as a zoologist, an anthropologist and a primatologist specialized in gorillas during a large part of her life. She began her professional life by working as an occupational therapist at Kosair Crippled Children's Hospital after she received her bachelor’s degree at San Jose State College. During a trip to Africa in 1963, she fell in love with the great apes and met Louis Leakey, a well-known archeologist. Years later, after she returned to the United States, Leakey invited her to take part of a long-term study of the endangered gorillas. She quitted her job in 1966 and moved to Rwanda to begin her work with the apes. She established the Karisoke Research Foundation in 1967 to promote the study of gorillas. During her 18 years of work in the field, she always opposed tourism and poaching. In 1985, she was split in half by one machete blow. Poachers opposing her actions are suspected to have perpetrated the murder. But nowadays, the case is still open and unsolved.
Unfortunately, thirty years later, in 2015, gorillas are still in danger in Africa. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, civil war began nearly 20 years ago. Even though intermittent periods of relative stability occur, it is still the territory for two rival armies, the M23 and the Congolese National Army. When M23 entered the gorillas’ habitat in 2012 to set up an operating base at Runyoni, the Congolese army reacted by firing rockets in the gorilla sector. They sent helicopters and tanks to attack. All those interventions killed humans of course, but gorillas as well. At least 40,000 people were displaced as the result of the conflict and had to build temporary settlements along their way, putting great pressure on the bio system and complicating the work of the conservationists in the sector. Additionally, Oil and Gas Company such as SOCO International are looking forward to exploiting natural resources in the area.
Another huge threat for the survival of gorillas is the Ebola virus. Since the 1990s, it wiped out a third of world’s gorillas and chimpanzees. Today, it is said that less than 95,000 remain. Because primates are tactile animals, the infection of one member can spread rapidly into a population. Experts are planning to administer a vaccine to the great apes, but this possibility would be difficult to achieve. As a long-term strategy, restoring the forest habitat is seen as a more effective plan.
All those doctors, conservationists and biologists who are working to protect gorillas are playing a similar role than the one Dian Fossey played four decades ago. Even if the situation is not perfect nowadays, people are making great efforts to improve gorillas’ environment and future. Thanks to Fossey’s significant work who permitted a greater access to the study of gorillas.
"Dian Fossey." Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 30 Mar. 2015.
Einsiedel, Orlando von, dir. Virunga. Appian Way Production, 2014. Netflix.2
Rush, James. "Ebola virus 'has killed a third of world’s gorillas and chimpanzees' – and could pose greatest threat to their survival, conservationists warn." The Independent. The Independent, 23 January 2015. Web. 30 March 2015.3