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First Rwandan Appointed Director of the Karisoke Research Center

Felix Ndagijimana has served as deputy director since 2008

ATLANTA (GA) – For the first time, a Rwandan national has been named director of the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park. Clare Richardson, president and CEO of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (Fossey Fund), announced today that Felix Ndagijimana, who has served as deputy director for the last four years, will assume leadership of Karisoke.

This historic appointment also comes on an historic date — Jan. 16, 2012 — which would have been the 80th birthday of Dr. Dian Fossey, who founded the Karisoke Research Centerin 1967 and the Fossey Fund, originally the Digit Fund, which has operated the center since her death.

“Ndagijimana is the first Rwandan to lead Karisoke as its director,”Richardson said. “He is a prime example of the Fossey Fund’s effort to conduct capacity building in Africa, through support for education and training so that local people can become stewards of conservation in their own lands.”

As director, Ndagijimana will oversee all of Karisoke’s research and protection programs for mountain gorillas and other species in Volcanoes National Park, as well as health and education programs in the communities surrounding the park, administering a staff of more than 100, including trackers, anti-poachers, research assistants, and administrative personnel. He succeeds Katie Fawcett, Ph.D., who held the position since 2002.

Ndagijimana began working at Karisoke™ as a research assistant in 2004. Through a scholarship created by Fossey Fund supporter Mary Ann Parker in memory of her son John Eric Peckham, he earned a master’s degree in primate conservation from Oxford Brookes University (UK). He was named deputy director in 2008 after completing his master's, and has been responsible for overseeing field activities and for expansion of research programs. Ndagijimana also holds a bachelor of science degree in microbiology from the University of Mysore, India. He has represented the Fossey Fund at numerous gatherings including International Primatological Society Congress meetings in Uganda and Scotland; the 2010 Poverty and Conservation Learning Group workshop; and at annual Kwita Izina gorilla-naming ceremonies in Kinigi, Rwanda. He also served as a field assistant for the production of the critically acclaimed PBS Nature program, “The Gorilla King.”

“I am greatly honored to be chosen for this important role,” says Ndagijimana. “I look forward to leading the dedicated team of trackers, scientists, and administrative personnel at Karisoke in continuing the legacy of Dian Fossey and our leadership in gorilla conservation. And I am very excited to build on the achievements of the past directors of Karisoke and to continue working with the Fossey Fund’s partners, both in Rwanda and elsewhere, to further our mission of conserving and protecting gorillas and their habitat.”

At the same time, Tara Stoinski, Ph.D., has been promoted to vice president and chief scientist for the Fossey Fund. Dr. Stoinski is based at the Fossey Fund’s U.S. headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.