Published: July 2008

More Years With Mountain Gorillas

Main Gorilla Vegetation

More Years With Mountain Gorillas

(Originally published in the October 1971 issue of National Geographic)

By Dian Fossey
Photograph by Robert M. Campbell

Two black hairy arms circled the tree trunk. A moment later a furry head appeared. Bright eyes peered at me through a lattice of ferns.

I occupied a branch of another tree, slightly downhill from the gorilla who stared at me. We were both in a forest on Mount Visoke in Rwanda, where I have been studying gorillas in the wild.

The face was familiar, not only by its features but by its impish expression; it belonged to Peanuts, one of my favorite gorillas. He is a member of one of the groups I have studied closely, and that have grown used to my presence among them.

Peanuts was wearing an expression I think of as "fun and games"; I have learned to recognize it in gorillas when they want to prolong a contact with me. Slowly, I left the tree and got down into the foliage to make feeding noises to reassure him.

The moments that followed are among the most memorable of my life. They were particularly important to me because this was, in a sense, a farewell visit to the mountain slope. I was shortly to leave Africa for a prolonged stay in Cambridge, England, where I would begin working on a doctoral thesis and other technical reports on gorilla behavior.

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