These are a set of stories about three women who changed the way we think of the great apes. These stories are based on true events. The dates and events that occurred, I have tried to get as accurate as possible. I am not trying to steal the copyright of these women's stories.
To Die For - The Dian Fossey Story
Within Eden - The Birute Galdikas Story
Land That I Love - The Jane Goodall Story
To Die For: The Dian Fossey Story
Louisville, Kentucky 1966
Peering through the crowd, Dian Fossey, a tall woman in her thirties stood on her tiptoes trying to catch a glimpse of Dr. Louis Leakey as he spoke to the crowd. Many people had showed up for the famed anthropologist's speech and the room was filled with excitement. Dr. Leakey was one of the most well known researchers in the whole world.
"Excuse me please," Dian whispered to a man standing nearby.
She pushed past him and made her way to the front of the crowd. Glancing around the room she found a seat close to the front and sat down, clutching a notepad and pen in her hands. Straining her neck, Dian spotted Dr. Leakey and listened eagerly to what he had to say.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I am here today to tell you all of the great need the research field has for volunteers. We are trying to recruit people who are willing to sacrifice everything for science.
"We are looking for someone who will go to Africa and study the mountain gorillas, shown here," Dr. Leakey said pointing to a picture of a majestic gorilla that was displayed on a large screen for all to see.
Dian studied the picture of the mountain gorilla in awe and smiled. She didn't hear the rest of Dr. Leakey's speech because she was so captivated by the pictures of the mountain gorillas. She knew right then and there that she wanted to go to Africa and study the mountain gorillas. Already she had been on a six week trip to Africa in the year of 1963. And she had met Dr. Leakey there.
"Dian, in order to preserve the great apes we must find people who will do research on them. Have you ever considered doing something like that?" Dr. Leakey had asked her.
"Well I've always loved wild animals and I went to veterinary school for quite some time but I quit and switched to occupational therapy. So I have had some experience with animals but I'm not sure if I could do something like that," Dian said.
"Think about it and if you ever change your mind, contact me," Dr. Leakey had said.
Dian had had time to think about everything and now she was certain she wanted to go to Africa to study the gorillas. It all seemed so rash but she was ready and willing. As soon as Dr. Leakey's speech was finished and he began to exit the room, Dian stood up quickly and tried to press her way through the throng.
"Dr. Leakey! Excuse me," Dian called out.
Dr. Leakey did not hear her above the noise and continued walking. Finally he stepped out of the room and mingled about in the crowd that was gathered at the luncheon table inside the building. Dian ran across the room to where Dr. Leakey stood.
"Excuse me Sir," she said stepping in front of a man who was having a conversation with Dr. Leakey.
"Excuse my rudeness but I'm desperate to talk to you Dr. Leakey," Dian smiled nervously.
Dr. Leakey raised his eyebrows and nodded his head.
"How can I help you Miss…?" he asked.
"Dian, Dian Fossey. We met in Olduvai Gorge a few years ago. I was in Africa on a six week trip and you spoke to me about the mountain gorillas," she said.
"And that's what I wanted to talk to you about. That job," she said.
"Job?" Dr. Leakey asked.
"Yes, the studying mountain gorillas job," Dian said.
"Ah, of course," Dr. Leakey smiled.
"You told me to think about it and I have and I…I would like to volunteer for the job," Dian blurted out.
Dr. Leakey smiled and looked her up and down.
"Ms. Fossey, I admire your enthusiasm but I'm not sure you understand how dangerous and exhausting it would be," Dr. Leakey said.
"I appreciate your interest though," Dr. Leakey said brushing past her.
"Dr. Leakey, I may not be a 'rough it' kind of woman, but I want this job. And you need me," Dian said following after Dr. Leakey.
"Please let me do this. I'll do anything," Dian said reaching out and touching his arm.
He turned to face her and he looked into her eyes for a moment.
"I'll need some time to think about it," he said.
"If I decide you're right for the part…then I'll contact you. Give me your home address and phone number," he said.
Dian dug around in her purse and pulled out a scrap piece of paper and a pen and jotted down the information he needed.
"Thank you so much," she smiled as she handed him the piece of paper.
"I can't promise you anything," he said before turning and walking away.
To Be Continued…