Time for a non-fiction book, I know I don’t read many, the last one I did read was Voyage of the Beagle. This book I’m about to review isn’t a part of Challenge 2020 (I promise I’m still getting through that though)!
This is a book like no other – about a strong, determined and independent woman and how her work and her legacy lives on now in protecting the lives of mountain gorillas. This is the story of Dian Fossey and the mountain gorillas of Africa.
I’ve never read her book ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ but I’m going to treat this book as prequel to it. We learn about Dian and how she decided to leave her life behind to go to Rwanda and study the gorillas.
Before Fossey’s work, gorillas were viewed as brutes – violent and human killers. She dispelled these myths. She spent day after day patiently waiting until the gorillas accepted her presence, until they hugged her and loved her like she loved and admired them.
She named the gorillas, much as Jane Goodall named the chimpanzees. From Uncle Bert to Aunt Florrie, her favourite was one called Digit. Digit was unfortunately brutally murdered by poachers – his hands and head removed by poachers. This was one death that Dian never seemed to recover from. She spent more and more time on her own and spiralled into a terrible depression.
Along the way, she lost love, she compromised friendships and risked her life on more than one occasion in order to protect the Gorillas. She fought poachers and anyone else who threatened the lives of the gorillas that she loved. She protected them from zoo collectors and local bureaucracies too.
She let gorillas rule her life, work and her heart and ultimately, in the forests of Rwanda, surrounded by the countless people she protected the gorillas from, she was brutally murdered in a machete attack. To this day, they never discovered the true killer and probably they never will as just after her death the Rwandan genocide began and probably most of evidence was lost then. Dian, along with all of the gorillas that died when she was studying them, are buried together, at Karisoke Research Station. The word ‘Nyiramachabelli’ is at the top of the grave stone meaning – the lone woman of the forest.’
This book isn’t for the faint hearted. Yes it is fascinating and interesting but it is also heart breaking and shocking. There are photos of gorillas that have been murdered. There are also photos of Dian with the gorillas and you an see this is where she was happiest.
Dian’s legacy lives on. Today there are 880 mountain gorillas in Rwanda…up from the 280 gorillas that were alive when Dian died. There is also the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund set up in her honour. It was originally known as the Digit fund in remembrance of her favourite gorilla known as Digit and was set up by Dian Fossey with the aim of financing her anti poaching patrols and the prevention of further poaching.
To this day, you can still travel up the mountains, juts like Fossey did. On my bucket list is the Dian Fossey Hike. Here you trek up the mountain, you may see wildlife such as gorillas, elephants and birds and you arrive at the ruins of Dian Fossey’s camp and hut and visit the graves of Dian and her gorillas.
You can buy this gorgeous book off Amazon now.
I will end this with what is written on her gravestone because it is perfect.
“Nyiramachabelli’ No one loved gorillas more. Rest in peach, dear friend. Eternally protected in this scared ground for you are home where you belong.”– Dian Fossey, 1932-1985
I would 100% recommend this book! I can’t wait for you to read it! She is an inspiration to all and one of my personal heroes. Someone close to me asked if I could pick someone, alive or dead, to have dinner with, who would I pick – Dian was one of mine!
Until next time,