Into the spotlight of study come two mountain gorillas, whose existence is threatened by the encroachment of man. Only scattered groups remain to roam the misty forests of central Africa.
Into the spotlight of study come two mountain gorillas, whose existence is threatened by the encroachment of man. Only scattered groups remain to roam the misty forests of central Africa.
Photograph by Dian Fossey

Making Friends With Mountain Gorillas

In remote African highlands, a daring American woman studies some of man’s closest nonhuman relatives in their age-old environment.

For the past three years I have spent most of my days with wild mountain gorillas. Their home, and mine, has been the misty wooded slopes of the Virunga range, eight lofty volcanoes—the highest is 14,787 feet—shared by three African nations, Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

During this time I have become well acquainted with many of the gorillas, and they with me. They roam the mountain slopes and saddles in groups, and several groups now accept my presence almost as a member. I can approach to within a few feet of them, and some, especially the juveniles and young adults, have come even closer, picked up my camera strap, and examined the buckle on my knapsack. One has even played with the laces on my boots, though I have a feeling that he did not suspect that the boots were, in fact, connected with me.

I know the gorillas as individuals, each with his own traits and personality, and, mainly for identification in my hundreds of pages of notes, I have given many of them names: Rafiki, Uncle Bert, Icarus, and so on.

Read This Next

An icy world is in meltdown, amid penguin population shifts
This sacred valley could become the next national monument
This 50-year project is tracking the Cascades' melting glaciers

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet