My first animal-protection hero was Dian Fossey after I read Gorillas in the Mist in the early 90’s. I was in awe of her boldness and bravery, dedication and commitment, attention to detail and desire to use whatever tools were at her disposal to protect the beautiful mountain gorillas. I don’t think I could ever be as brave as she was, sometimes I fear I won’t have the time on this earth to be as effective as people like her, and I can only hope to leave a legacy that changes the way we think about, talk about, and treat other animals. She wasn’t perfect — none of us are — and not everyone agreed with all of the decisions she made, but that doesn’t in any way minimize the amazing work she did.
At the time she was killed, I believe there were about 150 mountain gorillas alive, and she predicted their complete annihilation by now. She would be proud of the work done in her name and because of what she started — resulting in 850 mountain gorillas accounted for, to date. They are still in danger of extinction, but there is hope. There is always hope. My life’s goal is to be that hope, share that hope, and continue to contribute in such a way that something of this hope endures when I’m gone — that the world will be better for animals by the time I leave it.
It’s been such an honor to be in Rwanda — this close to where she lived and worked, to witness her legacy first-hand, and to support the vital work being done in her name. And tomorrow…we’ll meet a gorilla family who is here today because of her.
May we all be heroes for the animals and leave a legacy of compassion, peace, and selflessness.
*In these photos, I’m sitting at her actual desk and reading from her actual notes (they were copied to preserve the originals, but still).