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Sat, December 30, 2000

Dian Fossey 15 Years Later

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December 2000

Dian Fossey's Work Continues to Expand In the 15 Years Since Her Death

Dec. 26, 2000 marked the 15th anniversary of the death of Dr. Dian Fossey, the legendary protector and supporter of Africa's critically endangered mountain gorillas. Today, the Atlanta-based Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International continues her work studying and protecting gorillas, and has expanded its outreach to include science, field research, education and economic development in Africa.

Near the anniversary, Clare Richardson, president and chief executive officer of the Fossey Fund, returned from an extended trip to Rwanda and neighboring countries, where the remaining 300 or so mountain gorillas live. The Fossey Fund operates the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda, and employs a field staff of scientists, trackers and anti-poaching patrols.

In addition to gorilla protection, the Fossey Fund's work in Rwanda includes habitat studies, gorilla behavior and demographic analyses, biodiversity inventories and other work, using traditional field methods as well as advanced scientific technology, such as remote sensing via satellite. The Fossey Fund partners with numerous other conservation and educational groups and institutions in its work, including the National University of Rwanda, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Clark Atlanta University, the Bushmeat Crisis Taskforce and others.

In addition, the Fossey Fund now also supports numerous education and small-scale economic development programs in the communities near gorilla habitats, working with local organizations to implement projects. For example, while in Rwanda this month, Ms. Richardson arranged for the purchase of soccer uniforms for a Rwandan women's organization, which had named itself the "Dian Fossey Nyiramacibili project for the bravery of women and youth in Ruhengeri." This group, which organizes sporting events for women and children, had adopted Dian Fossey as their icon, a representative of courage, bravery and success.

Richardson also provided for the wives of Karisoke's Rwandan staff to begin their own community project through the purchase of two goats for each family. These goats will be managed and bred to expand the project into the community, providing a source of food and income.

While in Rwanda, Ms. Richardson also met with the country's President, Paul Kagame, and numerous other ministers and officials, and attended the graduation ceremonies of the National University. She pledged the Fund's support toward the building of a public library in the capital city of Kigali.

In the 15 years since the death of Dian Fossey, her work has continued, expanded and prospered. In that time, the mountain gorilla population has also survived and maintained itself, despite the civil unrest of 1994, widespread genocide and other serious problems in the area.

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International was founded by Dr. Fossey in 1978. It was originally named the Digit Fund, in memory of one of her favorite gorillas who was killed by poachers. The Fund was renamed in 1992 to underscore its commitment to carry on, after her tragic death, the gorilla protection and research programs she established. Fossey was killed in her cabin at Karisoke.

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