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Press Release: Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Celebrates 55th Anniversary on World Gorilla Day

World Gorilla Day originated on Sept. 24, 2017, to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the work of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund. It was on that day in 1967 that Dian Fossey set up her two tents and began groundbreaking mountain gorilla research in the forests of Rwanda.

Dian Fossey under Karisoke tent

Now, on the Fossey Fund’s 55th anniversary, mountain gorillas are rebounding from the brink of extinction, beating even Dian’s own predictions. But the biodiversity of the planet is under threat like never before. Climate change is accelerating, forest loss is increasing, and we are witnessing the sixth great mass extinction of species.

Since the first World Gorilla Day five years ago, the Fossey Fund has significantly stepped up efforts to protect and preserve gorillas and their forest habitats, and support the livelihoods of people in surrounding communities.

Today, the Fossey Fund protects almost 600,000 acres of some of the earth’s most biodiverse forests, the literal lungs of the planet. It is the world’s oldest and largest continuously operating project focused on gorillas and has one of the largest scientific databases on any species.  

The Fossey Fund is proud to announce the following growth of its programs, facilities and impact that has occurred since the organization’s last milestone anniversary:

Fossey Fund five-year highlights:

  • Assisting with the direct protection that has led to the continued increase in the mountain gorilla population and a change of conservation status from critically endangered to endangered in 2018. Mountain gorillas are the only ape whose numbers are not declining.
  • Doubling the number of staff in Africa, to nearly 300, two-thirds of whom are trackers and researchers protecting and studying gorillas and the surrounding biodiversity 365 days a year. 
  • Expanding the area of protection for Grauer’s gorillas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo by 250%, to nearly 2,400 square kilometers.
  • Opening the 12-acre Ellen DeGeneres Campus, the Fossey Fund’s first purpose-built and permanent home in Rwanda, designed to accelerate scientific research, train the next generation of conservationists, and conduct on-the-ground conservation work. Its innovative green campus has been featured in Architectural Digest and as one of Africa’s “10 Most Anticipated Architectural Projects” by CNN. 
  • Building the next generation of conservation and science leaders in Africa by tripling the number of African researchers on staff, increasing African leadership of scientific studies and publications and establishing scholarships with a particular focus on promoting African women in science.
  • Investing in food and water security, livelihood and education initiatives that impact more than 30,000 people living near the gorillas.
  • Conducting widespread media outreach to educate the public on the critical importance of gorilla conservation, including outlets such as 60 Minutes, Wired Magazine, Armchair Expert podcast, and many more.
  • Achieving excellent financial stewardship, transparency, and accountability with six straight years of a 4-star rating by Charity Navigator; only 14% of the charities evaluated by Charity Navigator reach such an achievement, demonstrating that we are outperforming the majority of charities in America.
  • Consistent year-over-year growth in fundraising performance, enabling a 250% increase in programmatic expenditures.

The rapid growth of our programs reflects the reality that the need for conservation has never been greater – the time is now. The planet is showing us through record temperatures, super storms, droughts, floods and even pandemics that we do not have a moment to wait.

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