The continued survival of the mountain gorilla is due – in no small part – to passionate conservationists. One of the key figures responsible for helping ensure the survival of mountain gorillas was Dian Fossey, and her work continues through the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, an organisation that Steppes Travel works closely with.
Originally created as the Digit Fund – named after Digit, Fossey’s favourite gorilla, the fund was set up to finance anti-poaching patrols in Rwanda. Now, it has evolved, supporting a far wider range of projects and has expanded its focus beyond Rwanda, and into neighbouring countries.
The fund takes a holistic approach to gorilla conservation, prioritising four main areas: protection of gorillas, scientific research, educating the next generation of conservationists and empowering local communities. The last of these is particularly important, as it ensures that local people not only benefit from gorilla tourism and but are not in conflict with gorillas for resources.
Karisoke Research Centre
Dr Dian Fossey set up this research centre as a camp within the Volcanoes National Park in 1967, located between Mount Karisimbi and Mount Karisoke. It continued to operate even after Fossey’s death, but in 2012 it eventually moved to a much more modern building in the town of Musanze. 2017 marked Karisoke’s 50th anniversary.
This new, convenient location means a visit can easily be combined with gorilla trekking. The centre offers the chance to learn about the history of Dian Fossey, see current research and discover protection practices being developed. In exchange for a donation, a private tour of the labs can be arranged, which includes the fascinating skeletal lab and a chance to meet the director.