Episode 53 Know Before You Go: Rwanda & Gorilla Trekking with CEO of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Dr. Tara Stoinski
Dian Fossey was an American conservationist and primatologist known for her work studying endangered mountain gorillas in the forests of Rwanda, where she worked from 1966 until her murder in 1985. Dian’s book, Gorillas in the Mist, which was published two years before her death, chronicles her scientific work. It was later adapted into an Academy Award-nominated film starring Sigourney Weaver, which turned Dian Fossey into a household name.
To this day, Dian’s legacy continues, carried out by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and its remarkable CEO Dr. Tara Stoinski. The Fund itself raises money for conservation, brings awareness and provides protection to gorillas and our planet’s ecosystem while empowering communities to do the same.
The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund—its new, multi-acre, eco-friendly facility—is located adjacent to Volcanoes National Park, situated along the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is a hub for scientific research and ecological preservation, where students and researchers are given the tools to better understand individual gorillas, who share 98 percent of our DNA. The campus has an exhibit available for public viewing, which is a must-do when in Volcanoes, and private, behind-the-scenes tours can also be arranged.
Tara’s held a fascination for animals from a young age, and for over two decades has been at the forefront of gorilla conservation. Initially as a scientist and, for nearly a decade, as the CEO of the Dian Fossey Fund. In this episode, she discusses the challenges of gorilla conservation, how special it is to experience seeing the primates firsthand, and the evolution of the fund.
Plus, Melissa is joined by Indagare Productions Director, Kathryn Nathanson to share what you need to know before your gorilla trek. Listen for valuable planning tips, what to expect through the trek, and what to wear.
Lightning Round with Dr. Tara Stoinksi:
- What inspires you most about Dian Fossey? Her dedication to giving mountain gorillas a future
- Most memorable encounter with a gorilla? My very first encounter was with dominant Silverback Shinda who promptly charged me to let me know I was in his home and he was in charge.
- Favorite activity in Rwanda? Visiting gorillas of course, or walking the grounds of our new campus and seeing all the biodiversity that has returned
- Favorite part of the movie “Gorillas in the Mist”? When Dian is finally accepted by the gorillas
- Favorite way to celebrate World Gorilla Day? In Rwanda with our team
- If you were able to communicate with gorillas for one day, what would you want to say or know? I’d love to know what they think of these funny looking two-legged creatures who come to watch them every day
- What’s one item you always bring on a gorilla trek? Layers
- Any other animals you’re passionate about? I love elephants
Tune in live: September 21, 2023 at 12 p.m. ET