December 28, 2005
Rwanda honors 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 death.
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.