“The Old Man of Mikeno”, bronze Bust of a mountain gorilla by Carl Akeley
In October 1902, Captain Robert von Beringei (1865–1940) shot two large apes during an expedition to establish the boundaries of German East Africa. One of the apes was recovered and sent to the Zoological Museum in Berlin, where Professor Paul Mantachie (1861–1926) classified the animal as a new form of gorilla and named it Gorilla beringei after the man who discovered it. In 1925 Carl Akeley, a hunter from the American Museum of Natural History who wished to study the gorillas, convinced Albert I of Belgium to establish the Albert National Park to protect the animals of the Virunga mountains.
George Schaller began his 20 month observation of the mountain gorillas in 1959, subsequently publishing two books: The Mountain Gorilla and The Year of the Gorilla. Little was known about the life of the mountain gorilla before his research, which described its social organization, life history, and ecology. Following Schaller, Dian Fossey began what would become an 18 year study in 1967. Fossey made new observations, completed the first accurate census, and established active conservation practices, such as anti-poaching patrols. The Digit Fund, which Dian Fossey started, continued her work and was later renamed the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. The Fund’s Karisoke Research Center monitors and protects the mountain gorillas of the Virunga. Close monitoring and research of the Bwindi mountain gorillas began in the 1990s.