Remembering Dian Fossey in a New Style at Virunga Lodge
The endless story of Rwanda’s mountain gorillas never goes without the name Dian Fossey! The fact is that the two inseparable. Dian Fossey was best described as the “Gorilla Lady”, as famous zoologist, gorilla conservationist and primatologist who conducted her research on mountain gorilla populations in the Volcanoes National Park around the 1970’s and 1980’s. If you watched the movie or read her book “Gorillas in the Mist” then you have known about Dr. Dian Fossey and the critically endangered mountain gorillas in African jungles. The rare mountain gorillas were for long described as “Wild man eaters” but thanks to Dian Fossey’s 20 year research for being instrumental in understanding their lives in the wilderness. Her work helped demystify ways of conserving gorillas and establishing responsible tourism that aids their protection for the future generations. She further established the Karisoke Research Center specifically for conducting research on endangered Apes. The Karisoke Research Center straddles between Mount Karisimbi and Mount Bisoke.
Dian Fossey’s activeness towards protecting the mountain gorillas from poachers made her to vigorously fight for the lives of mountain gorillas through media as well as physically ruining poachers’ dogs and wire snares. By January, 1970, Dian Fossey decorated the cover page of the first issue of the National Geographic Magazine and in a 20 page article, offered her the first detailed account of her study on mountain gorillas and this attracted massive numbers around the globe.
The prime focus for Dian Fossey’s research was mountain gorillas. Soon, she realized that in order for them to thrive on earth, they need to be protected from poachers, wire snares and human encroachment into their habitat. After poachers killed one of her favorite gorilla Digit, Dian Fossey put up a “Digit Fund” to facilitate active preservation of the rare mountain gorillas. Unfortunately, in 1985, Dian Fossey was killed mysterious in the Virunga Volcanoes. After her death in 1985, the Digit Fund was renamed as the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund that continues to work out of Musanze and adjacent countries. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund is however delighted for supporting the government’s attempts to conserve mountain gorillas all the biodiversity and not forgetting the adjacent local communities.
The new Dian Fossey Map Room
On 2nd March, 2017, celebrations were conducted to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of the Dian Fossey in 1985 and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Karisoke Research Centre by Dian Fossey in 1967. The celebrations also included the opening of a new Dian Fossey Map Room at the Virunga Lodge. Construction work for the Map Room began in June 2016 and it was opened on 2nd March 2017. The new Dian Fossey Room was designed by Studio FH (www.studiofh.ug) from Kampala and it will serve as a private room for sharing and reflecting her legacy. Besides educational room, the new map room will also offer room for private celebrations, meetings and dinners for visitors to Volcanoes National Park. The rooms accommodate up to 12 people. The room is built using local materials that depict the local design and building techniques, to reflect the design of the main lodge. Interestingly, it offers extraordinary views of the Virunga Mountains and the Twin Lakes (Lake Bulera and Lake Ruhondo) to the East something that has positioned the Virunga Lodge as the most stunning and premier luxury lodge for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park.
It is incredible that we pay tribute towards the work of Dian Fossey and other primatologists who have contributed to the conservation of these rare species in the wild. The Map Room was constructed in remembrance of Dian Fossey the prime primatologist who committed herself towards conservation of mountain gorillas in the Virunga Mountains of Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda between 1967 and 1985.
While opening the Dian Fossey Map Room, special 6 days safari was provided to trace the footsteps of Dian Fossey in Virunga and Gahinga. This comprised of a gorilla trek in Rwanda and hiking a volcano or golden monkey tracking in Uganda. Other additional visits were also included but optional especially hike to the Dian Fossey grave, to climb the Visoke Volcano in the Volcanoes National Park and to visit the Karisoke exhibition at the Karisoke Research Center facility in Musanze. For adventurous tourists, this tremendous package offers you opportunity to visit several places where Dian Fossey worked and stayed at the time of her research study on the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. The same offer is available for reservations till 30th September, 2017, through 31st March 2018, given that there is availability. For visitors landing into Kigali International Airport (Rwanda), Virunga Lodge is situated 3 hour drive.
In conclusion, Dr. Dian Fossey’s work is worth remembering due to protection and conservation measures that she put towards conserving the lives of mountain gorillas from poachers that today we are proud about. Her legacy still exists through the Dian Gorilla Fossey International an international gorilla conservation organization and the Karisoke Research Center based in the Musanze town.