Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dian Fossey Life and Death

Dr. Leakey, I Presume

African Masai tribesmen
African Masai tribesmen

Despite conflicts with her guide, Fossey made the most of her safari.

She shot hundreds of photographs and reel upon reel of 9 mm film. She spent hours each night keeping a journal. She intended to write about her experiences for publication once she returned to America.

Her first stop was the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania, where she observed lions and herds of zebras, impalas and wildebeests. She also photographed the Masai people, the tall, slender nomadic herdsmen.

During the second week of her journey, she had a brief meeting that changed her life.

Fossey insisted that her guide take her to Olduvai Gorge in Serengeti National Park, the center of Louis Leakey's famous archaeological research. Leakey, the son of British missionaries to Kenya, had made a series of discoveries there that he believed supported his theory that homo sapiens evolved on the African continent.

Tanzania with Serengeti Plains & Olduvai Gorge locator
Tanzania with Serengeti Plains &
Olduvai Gorge locator

Leakey was among the world's most famous scientists in 1963, and Fossey was determined to meet him.

Leakey proved to be quite accommodating, as he generally was with attractive young women. They had a long visit, and Leakey encouraged Fossey to go north to observe the rare mountain gorillas that lived at the border lands of Rwanda, Uganda and Zaire.

"Keep in touch," Leakey said at the end of the visit.

Fossey had every intention.

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