It was Digit, and he was gone. The mutilated body, head and hands hacked off for grisly trophies, lay limp in the brush like a bloody sack.
Ian Redmond and a native tracker took the initial shock. They stumbled on the spear-stabbed and mangled body at the end of a line of snares set by antelope poachers. Stunned with grief and horror, Ian composed himself and set out to find me in another part of the forest. An outstanding student helper, he shared my aim to balance research with the goal of saving the imperiled mountain gorillas that I was studying from my base camp in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda, in central Africa.
For me, this killing was probably the saddest event in all my years of sharing the daily lives of mountain gorillas, now diminished to only about 220 individuals—a reduction by half in just 20 years. Digit was a favorite among the habituated gorillas I was studying: In fact, I was unashamed to call him "my beloved Digit."