GALLIPOLIS — Dianne Moran will be presenting as the renowned gorilla conservation advocate Dian Fossey at 7:30 p.m. Thursday as Ohio Chautauqua continues in Gallipolis City Park.
According to information provided by Ohio Humanities, “Dianne Moran is an award-winning folklorist who has worked with audiences for 35 years as a living history performer, Chautauqua scholar and naturalist, including 25 years with the St. Louis Zoo. She lives deep in an Ozark forest, where she says she is free to enjoy wild things and the spirits of the pioneers who linger on there. Dianne’s programs receive funding from the Missouri Arts Council; she is one the rosters of St. Louis and Kansas City Young Audiences and she tours with her living history programs as a Chautauqua scholar.”
Fossey was originally a director of occupational health in a children’s hospital in Kentucky. A friend gave her a book titled “Year of the Gorilla,” which kicked up a passion in her for Africa and the large primates there. In 1963, Fossey met a paleoanthropologist, Dr. Louis Leakey, in Africa. While touring for seven weeks, Fossey was inspired by her sights of gorillas and impressed Leakey with her dedication.
Fossey would approach Leakey again a few years later. Leakey offered Fossey a chance to lead a research program on mountain gorillas in Rwanda. For the next 18 years, Fossey studied and defended mountain gorillas. When she started, there were maybe 250 left in the wild, now there may be close to 700.
Fossey never had children. She was also known somewhat for a sense of loneliness and estranging herself from those around her with sometimes aggressive behavior.
Fossey was known for publishing her book “Gorillas in the Mist” that combined her experience in Africa with her study of the mountain gorilla. The book was eventually turned into a 1988 movie.
Fossey would earn her doctorate in zoology in 1976. Fossey was also close with chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall.
Fossey would eventually be found dead inside her cabin in the Virunga Mountains of Rwanda during the holiday season of 1985. Although no one was ever convicted, many think it was by poachers whom Fossey would often publicly condemn. She was buried next to one of her favorite gorillas on a mountain. Fossey was known to have helped arrest several poachers, with some of them leading to long prison sentences.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.