Karisoke™ Research Center Today
The Karisoke™ Research Center is currently the world’s best hope for the survival of endangered mountain gorillas and their ecologically critical habitat. It is also a significant resource for the people who live near the gorillas. Since its establishment in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park by Dr. Dian Fossey in 1967, Karisoke™ has produced an unparalleled amount of information about the mountain gorillas and their habitat. Thanks to its active conservation program, the mountain gorillas of the Virungas are the only great ape species to have increased in number in recent decades.
Although original Karisoke™ structures were destroyed during civil unrest in the 1990s, its current programs are carried out from nearby facilities in Musanze (formerly Ruhengeri), as well as in various outposts within the park and in other locations. Karisoke is engaged in extensive daily protection and monitoring of the mountain gorillas, numerous science and research projects, various education initiatives and community health and development projects.
The Karisoke™ Research Center currently employs more than 100 staff members. Over half of these are involved in research, protection and monitoring of the gorillas. Others are engaged in biodiversity and socioeconomic research, education, health, and administration.
Building on Dian Fossey’s legacy
Karisoke’s influence today reaches far beyond Dian Fossey’s vision. Through the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International, Karisoke™ works in collaboration with Rwandan park authorities, local communities and other Rwandan conservationists who recognize that the gorillas and their habitat contribute significantly to their country’s economic sustainability. It continues to attract scientists and students from all over the world, who study both practical and basic scientific questions regarding the mountain gorillas. It has also inspired the establishment of community-based gorilla reserves and a conservation university in the neighboring nation of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Karisoke™ stands as a tribute to the courage and vision of its founder, Dr. Dian Fossey, and to all those who have followed her inspiration in the 40 years since she set up two small tents in the Virunga mountains.
Current highlights at Karisoke™
- Increased tracking and anti-poaching staff, including the first combined patrols with Rwandan, Ugandan and Congolese park authorities.
- Completion of two Virunga mountain gorilla censuses in partnership with local conservation personnel, which found a 26.3 percent increase in the gorilla population from 2003 to 2010. The increase was greatest in areas monitored by Karisoke.
- Completion of a Virunga biodiversity inventory and field guides, to support public education and ecotourism.
- Habituation of golden monkeys for study and tourism, at the request of Rwandan park authorities.
- Expansion of research to other rare species of plants and animals that inhabit the Virungas.
- Operation of a facility for young gorillas rescued from poachers.
- Supplying 3,000 primary school students with books and materials, and conducting conservation programs for six secondary schools.
- Providing biodiversity training for local park staff and other conservation partners.
- Supporting hundreds of Rwandan college students with field courses, internships and dissertation projects.
- Appointing Felix Nadagijimana the Karisoke Research Center's first Rwandan director.
- Moving Karisoke's headquarters to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund's new Regional Resource Center, a modern, multi-purpose facility in Musanze.
Learn about Karisoke’s dramatic history and the remarkable life of its founder Dr. Dian Fossey.