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No One Loved Gorillas More
01 April 2005

Dian Fossey’s extraordinary life continues to fascinate the world.

Her inspirational work with the mountain gorillas spanned 19 years and made her a household name, but her fiery temper and methods of dealing with poachers brought controversy.

Her shocking murder in 1985 remains unsolved but Gorillas in the Mist, the Hollywood film version of her life, continues to captivate audiences.

To mark the 20th anniversary of her death, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Europe has produced No One Loved Gorillas More, a delightful coffee table book – with breathtaking pictures by Dian’s close friend Bob Campbell and a wonderful foreward by Dr Jane Goodall - based on Dian’s letters to her mother and other friends back home.

The letters (and some family pictures) were given to the Fund by Dian Fossey’s estate in 1998 with the instruction that they should be used to help the gorilla cause. Some of them were read on stage – by, among other notable actors, Sir Terrence Stamp, Jeremy Irons and Dame Eileen Atkins – in a special Concert for the Gorillas at the Royal Opera House, London, in 2002. The book, which sells for £19.99 ($30) and is available from the Fund’s website www.dianfossey.org as well as from booksellers, is reviewed by Ian Redmond below.

A limited number are available with a separate print signed by Bob Campbell and a facsimile of Dian’s heartrending letter following the death of her favorite gorilla, Digit.

The Fund will celebrate Dian’s life and work in memorial events in the UK and Africa later in the year.


REVIEW

No one loved gorillas more: Dian Fossey, letters from the mist
by Camilla de la Bedoyere
Palazzo Editions 192pp £19.99
National Geographic (US) $30

This beautiful book of Dian Fossey’s letters to her parents and loved ones is published as part of the 20th anniversary of her untimely death.

In our 21st-century world of text messages and emails, letter writing seems to be a dying art, but for Dian Fossey, in her isolated research centre in Rwanda, letters were conversation. She spent hours hammering out long, anecdotal, very funny and sometimes heartrending letters on her old Olivetti typewriter and ‘chatted’ in this way to a wide range of correspondents.

A ‘conversation’ would typically take at least three weeks between sending and receiving an exchange of news and views. Thus, although much of this book is composed of Dian’s own words, one needs to understand the context in which they were written, and De la Bedoyere’s sensitive text sets the scene for the reader.

Of course, letters to parents are always going to have a bit of positive ‘spin’, both to reassure them and keep them up to date with gossip and news.

The picture that emerges of Dian’s complex character is one of stark contrasts – sometimes warm and witty with a self-deprecating sense of humour, yet at other times insecure, reclusive and often cantankerous.

There is a fine line between dedication and obsession. Many have concluded that Dian Fossey crossed that line under the strain of the killing by poachers of gorillas she knew as close friends. Through her letters, however, one glimpses something of how Dian herself viewed or justified her actions, or at least how she wanted those close to her to understand them.

The outstanding photographs, by National Geographic magazine’s Bob Campbell, evoke times of joy and tragedy in the ethereal, misty, moss-draped forests of the Virunga volcanoes.

And Jane Goodall contributes a very personal foreword that is full of delightful anecdotes.

Altogether, readers gain a rounded understanding of the real Dian Fossey, and how she achieved her lasting legacy, the survival of the mountain gorillas.

Adapted from a review for BBC Wildlife magazine (www.bbcwildlifemagazine.co.uk) by DFGF Trustee Ian Redmond.

Buy the book here
for further information or photographs contact:

David Hewitt, Communications Manager
The Gorilla Organization, 110 Gloucester Avenue, London, Nw1 8HX
Tel: 020 7916 4974
Mobile: 07801 971123
david@gorillas.org
www.gorillas.org