This is where it hits

A female mountain gorilla at Rwanda Volcanoes at Karisoke, which was Dian Fossey’s research area
Photo: Jan Fleischmann (CC BY-SA 4.0)

It was in Africa in 1963, aged 31, that Dian Fossey first caught a glimpse of the animal to which she would soon dedicate her life: the mountain gorilla. By the time she wrote the following diary entry in 1985, Fossey had been living among these creatures in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park for over a decade. Her groundbreaking research and conservation work had brought international attention to the plight of these endangered animals, but it also made her a target. Three months after writing the following entry, and eight years after her favourite gorilla, Digit, was killed by poachers, Fossey was found murdered in her cabin—a crime that remains unsolved to this day.

The Diary Entry

September 15: This is where it hits. Beethoven, the grand old silverback leader of Group 5, has disappeared and must be presumed dead. I’m heartsick about it. We have done little but search for his body but to no avail. At least his group remains under protection of his powerful silverback son, Ziz, who is the hugest silverback I’ve ever seen. He is having a bit of a struggle keeping the eleven sexually mature females he’s got now from tearing one another’s hair out.

Further Reading

Two years before her death, Fossey’s autobiography was published, titled Gorillas in the Mist. It became a film of the same name in 1988, with Fossey played by Sigourney Weaver. But to read some of Fossey’s diary entries, you’ll need to find a copy of Farley Mowat’s 1987 biography of Fossey, titled, Woman in the Mists: The Story of Dian Fossey and the Mountain Gorillas of Africa.


Diary entry excerpted from Woman in the Mists. Reprinted by the permission of Russell & Volkening as agents for the Estate of Dian Fossey, Copyright © 1988 by Dian Fossey.

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