Dr Dian Fossey awarded the world’s most prestigious conservation prize
The Perfect World Award has previously been presented to legends such as Sir David Attenborough, Dr Jane Goodall, Miss Greta Thunberg and Dr Sylvia Earl. This year, a new icon is chosen for the award – Dr Dian Fossey.
The Perfect World Foundation recognises a person who has made significant contributions to the conservation of our natural world with the annual Nordic Wildlife Conservation Award – The Perfect World Award.
“This year the accolade goes to Dr Dian Fossey in recognition of her ground-breaking research into mountain gorillas which changed our perception of these gentle giants and how we study them to this day.” says Ragnhild Jacobsson, Founder of The Perfect World Foundation.
Dr Dian’s life was tragically cut short when she was murdered in the Karisoke camp in 1985, but her work continues to grow and has become the longest running gorilla field study in the world.
The Perfect World Foundation is a non-profit organisation working with wildlife and nature in crisis, around the world. By increasing knowledge and spreading awareness, the foundation‘s grand mission is to save the world.
Perfect World Foundation Ambassador and Presenter of the award, Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, said “It really is extraordinary, what Dr Dian Fossey in her lifetime has succeeded in doing, it is just incredible. So in Dr Dian Fossey’s wonderful memory, we honour Dr Dian Fossey and we say Thank You so much.”
Dr Fossey, played by Sigourney Weaver in the 1988 award-winning film, spent 18 years in Rwanda with the gorillas and changed the scientific landscape in terms of what we know about the previously feared giants. The methods she developed observing and mapping the gorilla’s social behaviour, their diet, and population – getting to know them on an individual level – was ground-breaking and continues to this day.
Dr Dian Fossey hadn’t set out to become a primatologist, she simply loved African nature and was inspired to travel there in 1963. In 1967, she founded the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains, to study and protect endangered mountain gorillas.
When she started her study, the Virunga population was in decline and mountain gorillas were directly poached for souvenirs – gorilla hands and heads. Dr Fossey introduced what she called active conservation – going into the park and removing snares – and later in 1978 also started to counteract poachers with anti-poaching patrols funded by the first non-profit organisation in America founded by Dr Fossey. In 1983 the population was at its lowest with 250 individuals. But since then, the population has been increasing, and now includes 1 000 gorillas.