The mountain gorilla was first discovered roaming the Virunga Volcanoes in Rwanda (von Beringe, 2002, p.9). German Captain Robert von Beringe and his African soldiers stumbled upon two mountain gorillas around the volcanic region on October 17, 1902 (von Beringe, 2002, p.9). Von Beringe captured and killed one of them and sent the body to the Zoological Museum in Berlin, Germany. Professor Paul Matschie, who worked with the museum, identified the gorilla as a new class and named it after its founder: Gorilla beringei beringei (von Beringe, 2002, p.10). Twenty-three years later, American naturalist Carl Akeley persuaded King Albert of Belgium to turn a Belgian trust territory, near Rwanda, into a national park for the conservation of mountain gorillas. The Albert National Park, later named the Virunga National Park, was the first park established in Africa (Ngowi, 2002).
Between 1960 and 1980, American zoologists studied mountain gorillas. George Schaller spent one year doing basic study on the animal. Dian Fossey devoted her life to extensively studying and protecting mountain gorillas. Fossey moved to Rwanda to be closer to the animals and set up the Karisoke Research Center in 1967 (Robbins et al., 2001). She directed the center for thirteen years, learning the habits and gaining the acceptance of the mountain gorillas (Robbins et al., 2001). In 1983, she wrote a book, Gorillas in the Mist, to promote public awareness of the troubles mountain gorillas face. Her memoir was later made into a movie. Her relationship with mountain gorillas and concern for their safety was unmatched. She created an organization to save gorillas in 1978 called the Digit Fund, named after a mountain gorilla Fossey was close to (Robbins et al., 2001). After her mysterious death in 1985, the organization switched its name to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. Fossey contributed to much understanding of mountain gorillas.
Dian Fossey was so driven to protect mountain...
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