Scientist in the Mist

Who on Earth is Dian Fossey?: Defender of the Mountain Gorillas
By Jill Menkes Kushner
(Enslow Publishers, Inc., Berkley Heights, New Jersey, 2010 $31.93)

Who on Earth is Dian Fossey? is an excellent introduction to Dian Fossey’s work with mountain gorillas, mountain gorillas in general, and wildlife conservation. However, Fossey herself, apart from her dedication to the gorillas she studied, remains a shadowy figure in this biography.

Author Jill Menkes Kushner explores Fossey’s sense of purpose and indifference to risk. Fossey took out a large, high-interest loan to fund her first trip to Africa. She liked what she saw, so she quit a secure job as an occupational therapist to study gorillas in the remote forests of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With patience, Fossey won the gorillas’ acceptance – and, in some cases, their friendship. Later, she shrugged off poor health, military unrest, and hostile poaching gangs to pursue her research and protect the endangered species. Her courage made her famous, gained her fans and enemies, and led to her brutal murder by poachers in 1985.

Who on Earth is Dian Fossey? is an educational biography, written for the school and library markets. As such, the book, with its headlines and occasionally choppy prose, often reads like a textbook. But Kushner includes enough moving stories about the primatologist and her gorilla friends to capture the wonder of Fossey’s life. These anecdotes, along with photos of Fossey interacting with the gorillas, should captivate kids interested in animals and nature.

© Dorothy A. Dahm

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