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Former Karisoke Researcher Mourned

June 30, 2010

Former Karisoke™ Staff Ymke Warren, Ph.D., Killed in Cameroon

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International has learned of the tragic death of a former research assistant, the primatologist Ymke Warren, Ph.D., at her home in Cameroon on Tuesday, June 29. In the 1990s, Warren studied the endangered mountain gorillas that are monitored and protected by the Fossey Fund’s Karisoke™ Research Center at Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda.

Warren’s research at Karisoke focused on silverback gorillas carrying gorilla infants, and on the social dynamics of bi-male mountain gorilla groups, which was the subject of her thesis for a master of science degree from University College, London, UK. Warren arrived at Karisoke in March 1994 but was evacuated six weeks later due to civil war. She returned in April 1995 and served until the spring of 1997 when the park again closed, then returned in 1999 as a field project manager.

Warren also served for a few months as acting director of Karisoke in 1999, helping to train new research assistants, while the director was abroad. She subsequently published several other scientific studies of gorillas and baboons in Rwanda, Nigeria and Cameroon, including her Ph.D. dissertation on baboons for Roehampton University, London, UK in 2003.

“All of us at the Fossey Fund are devastated to learn of this terrible loss,” says Fossey Fund President and CEO Clare Richardson. “It is a loss for those who knew her, and for those who benefited from her many contributions to Karisoke and to the field of primatology and to the efforts to conserve Africa’s endangered species and environments. All of us are familiar with the many risks our brave scientists take throughout their career, and we offer our heartfelt sympathies to her friends and family.”

According to news reports Warren was attacked by an unidentified person armed with a machete who had entered her house. Warren was currently serving as research coordinator for the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Takamanda-Mone Landscape Project, where she conducted field research on the Cross River gorillas and oversaw research for a proposed gorilla sanctuary.

The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s Karisoke Research Center employs a number of research assistants who collect data from field observations of the gorillas’ behavior for a long-term study begun in the late 1960s by Karisoke’s founder, Dian Fossey. Often these assistants then go on to become major field scientists in the field of primatology, as did Warren.