Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dian Fossey Life and Death


The Africa of Fossey's safari
The Africa of Fossey's safari

"I had a deep wish to see and live with wild animals in a world that hadn't yet been completely changed by humans," Fossey would later write.

One problem: She had no money, and the month-long trip would cost $5,000 — more than a full year's salary.

Franz Forrester offered a solution. He proposed marriage, promising a safari honeymoon. But Fossey was not ready to settle down.

Instead, she saved every penny for two years, then took a loan against future income to raise the money for her safari. She departed Sept. 26, 1963, with an itinerary that included Zaire, Kenya, Rwanda, Rhodesia, Tanganyika and Uganda.

She had hired a British guide, John Alexander, whom she arranged to meet at the Mount Kenya Safari Club, a jungle playhouse for the wealthy outside Nairobi. Her 'Great White Hunter,' as she called him, proved surly and impatient, and he and Fossey would spend much of their time together disagreeing.

<em>Woman in the Mists</em> by Farley Mowat
Woman in the Mists by Farley

"He is a bore and I feel as though a huge tsetse fly were hovering over my head all the time I'm with him," Fossey wrote in her journal, quoted in Farley Mowat's book Woman in the Mists. "Yesterday I was tempted to abandon him and his Land Rover when he claimed some African had given him a bit of lip. It spoiled the whole afternoon of game-viewing for me. But on the other hand, when this jerk wants something, he's as obsequious as a lamb. He may be tall and handsome, but to me he's ugly."

That tone would come to define Fossey's relationships for decades to come. She was hard to please, and few people managed to live up to the standards she expected — even if she rarely attained them herself.

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