History of The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International

Beginning with founder Dr. Dian Fossey, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International has more than 40 years’ history of gorilla protection and conservation.

Fossey observing favorite silverback DigitWe were established in 1978 as the Digit Fund, with the purpose of preserving and protecting the world's last mountain gorillas.  Our focus has never wavered, but we have expanded to address other regional challenges to gorilla protection.

Making history in gorilla protection

Originally named  the “Digit Fund” in memory of Dr. Fossey's favorite gorilla, the Fossey Fund was given its current name in 1992 to underscore its commitment to carry on the gorilla protection and research programs established by Dr. Fossey after she founded the Karisoke™ Research Center in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park in 1967. Learn more about Dian Fossey. Karisoke has made gorilla protection history by making it possible for the mountain gorillas of the Virungas to be the only great ape population to have grown in number since the 1960s.

Expanding Dian Fossey’s legacy

Since Fossey’s death in 1985, the Fund’s activities have expanded to include protection of Grauer’s (eastern lowland) gorillas in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as the mountain gorillas in that country’s Virunga National Park, and other endangered species in the gorillas’ habitats. The fund has also established numerous health and education projects in partnership with local government agencies, nongovernmental organizations and universities and with the communities that share the gorillas’ ecosystems, to create a healthy environment for both people and gorillas and empower Africans to become leaders in conserving their own natural resources. This recognition of the interdependence of people and gorillas and the importance of helping people marks another milestone in gorilla conservation history.

Communities we support creating gorilla history

A major advance in gorilla conservation supported by the Fossey Fund began in the late 1990s, when a group of traditional leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo decided to create a network of gorilla reserves by donating their ancestral lands. With financial and technical help from the Fund, these reserves are gaining government recognition that grants them legal status equal to the national parks, while allowing the communities to retain the management role. The same communities established the unique Tayna Center for Conservation Biology (TCCB), with help from the Young orphaned gorilla cared for by Fossey FundFossey Fund,  offering university-level degrees to the next generation of African conservationists.

Making history with orphan gorilla rehabilitation

One more way the Fossey Fund is making gorilla protection history:  In the spring of 2010, at the urging of the Congolese national park service (ICCN) with funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and design and construction assistance from Disney's Animal Programs, we opened the Gorilla Rehabilitation and Conservation Education (GRACE) center in the Congo, on forest land donated by TCCB. Four Grauer’s gorillas that had been rescued from poachers flew by helicopter from their temporary quarters in Goma, DRC to this new state-of-the art facility. In 2011 six more arrived that had been cared for in Kinigi, Rwanda, and others confiscated subsequently have joined them. The center has a capacity for 30 gorillas, and is the first facility of its kind in East Africa. There, the gorillas can learn to live in a group in a natural setting, until they can be released into the wild.

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