A Century of Mountain Gorilla Conservation
Human population growth and the expansion of resource extraction industries have fundamentally changed our global environment over the past century, isolating and destroying many unique habitats supporting nature’s most vulnerable species. By 1922, two decades after westerners discovered mountain gorillas, early naturalists recognized their existence was threatened by resource competition: gorillas could not survive without the support of conservation intervention. King Albert I of Belgium created Africa’s first national park to protect gorillas and other species in 1925, prohibiting Africans from pursuing traditional agricultural and hunting practices that threatened gorillas. Without park rule enforcement, however, other government policies encouraged hunting and agriculture expansion, without concern for the natural environment. In 1967, when Dian Fossey founded the Karisoke Research Center in Rwanda to study mountain gorillas in the wild, only a few hundred remained.
Gorillas naturally avoid human contact. However, Dian Fossey and Bob Campbell’s persistent efforts acclimated some gorilla groups to accept their presence as members, opening new possibilities for research. Acceptance or habituation of gorillas to human presence allowed better photographs, enhanced data collection, supported unprecedented monitoring of gorilla well-being, and led to the wildlife tourism that supports research and conservation today.
Except where noted, all items are from the Bob Campbell Papers, Special & Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida. Gift of Heather Campbell. Images are from digitized color positive slides.
Bob Campbell (British Kenyan resident, 1930-2014)
Gorilla examining a gloved hand, Rwanda
This online exhibition is based on the exhibition of the same name that was presented at the University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries,
September 18 – December 15, 2017.
Curated by Dan Reboussin and Richard Freeman with assistance from Riley Ravary | Designed by Lourdes Santamaría-Wheeler