Mountain GorillaLong before she was honored with a Google doodle the famous primatologist Dr. Dian Fossey was a little girl who loved animals. Dian Fossey was born in San Francisco, California on January 16, 1932. Her parents divorced when she was 6, and she was raised in a very strict household by her mother and stepfather. Fossey turned to animals and horseback riding as an outlet.

Dr. Fossey spent 14 years studying mountain gorillas in the hills of the Virunga Mountains in East Africa. This chain of volcanoes goes through the borders of Rwanda, Congo, and Uganda. While in Africa, Fossey became close friends with her follow primatologist Jane Goodall.

Fossey wrote the book Gorillas in the Mist about her experiences. One adult male gorilla, named Digit, was studied by Fossey for ten years, until he was killed by poachers. Fossey founded the Digit Fund to raise funding for gorilla conservation, and to fight back against poachers. However, Fossey’s conservation work was not without controversy. Fossey was killed in her cabin in Rwanda in 1985, and the Digit Fund was later renamed The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.

According to a story honoring her birthday in the Christian Science Monitor, Dr. Fossey‚Äôs research showed that Mountain Gorillas have family units, and that they share many behavioral patterns with humans. Fossey ‚Äúis widely credited with changing the scientific as well as the public image of gorillas,” says Tara Stoinski, chief scientific officer at The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.

Today, Dian Fossey’s work continues to serve as an inspiration to other girls who love animals all over the world. One of these is Haley Stern of Burlington, Vermont. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International webpage shares that when she was 11, Haley started her own organization called Kids Save Apes.

In 2007, I went to the Bronx Zoo, and was blown away by the gorillas,” she says. My parents got me the movie ‘Gorillas in the Mist,’ and during the poaching scenes in the end I was so terrified, I adopted a gorilla from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund right after. But I wanted to do more to help. I gathered my friends to form ‘Kids Save Apes’. I made a website, an email address, and spread the plight of the apes. I notified teachers, parents, kids, senators, representatives, the president! Before I knew it, I had raised $500 (not including what other members had raised as well) and was telling everyone about the cause.

Learn about what other kids have done to help gorillas in the wild, and what you can do help, here.

-Emily Holm
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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