December 28, 2005

Rwanda honours mountain gorilla researcher Fossey

KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwandan officials commemorated the life
and the 20th anniversary of the death of famed primate
researcher Dian Fossey with dances and speeches in the rural
highlands where she studied the mountain gorillas she loved.

Government officials and locals held traditional dances,
gave speeches and laid wreaths at the site where Fossey, who
was killed in mysterious circumstances in 1985, was buried.

Fossey's work inspired the 1988 Hollywood film Gorillas in
the Mist, starring Sigourney Weaver and has provided Rwanda's
economy with an enduring lure for tourist dollars.

Fossey was murdered in her cabin in the Volcanoes National
Park on December 26, 1985 after nearly 18 years of living in
the jungles with the primates.

Mountain gorillas have become a huge foreign revenue earner
for impoverished Rwanda, attracting thousands of tourists to
the tiny central African nation which is emerging from a 1994
genocide where an estimated 800,000 people were hacked to

Rugamba said 10,500 tourists, mainly from Europe and United
States, visited the gorillas this year.

Fossey brought the plight of mountains gorillas to the
attention of the world," Rosette Rugamba, the director general
of Rwanda Parks and Tourism Board told Reuters.

"She was dedicated to the conservation of gorillas and
their habitats in Rwanda and Africa at large through
anti-poaching, regular monitoring, research and education."

There are only 700 mountain gorillas left in the world, and
Rwanda is home to about one third of the total population.