Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dian Fossey Life and Death


Virunga Mountains
Virunga Mountains

She and her guide made their way to the mountains, where Fossey met wildlife filmmakers Alan and Joan Root, who were filming gorillas in the Virunga Mountains. The Roots allowed Fossey to tag along. This was her first experience at high-altitude jungle hiking, and she had trouble keeping up as the couple and their African guides moved swiftly along through rugged terrain at more than 10,000 feet high.

A native guide suddenly halted the group and used his machete to cut a window through the brush. Fossey crawled forward and gazed through the opening. She wrote:

Dian Fossey with gorillas
Dian Fossey with gorillas

"A group of about six adult gorillas stared apprehensively back at us through the opening in the wall of vegetation. A phalanx of enormous, half-seen looming black bodies surmounted by shiny black patent-leather faces with deep-set warm brown eyes. They were big and imposing, but not monstrous at all. Somehow they looked more like members of a picnic party surprised by interlopers. Their bright gazes darted nervously from under their heavy brows as they tried to determine if we were dangerous."

The next day, Fossey departed the mountains for an airplane trip south to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to visit the family farm of Franz and Alexie Forrester. But she left looking over her shoulder.

She wrote, "I left... never doubting that somehow I would return to learn more about the Virunga gorillas."

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