Poppy the mountain gorilla in Rwanda has died aged about 43

Dian Fossey, the primatologist, met Poppy, the female mountain gorilla, in 1977 when she was studying Rwanda’s vanishing primate population which resulted in her celebrated 1983 book: Gorillas in the Mist.

Fossey and a young Poppy who has died aged 43 (probably). Photo: Ian Redmond.

Poppy is the last of the mountain gorillas mentioned in her book. Poppy had not been seen by trackers in the Virunga mountain range for nine months. Poppy would have been 43-years-of-age last month. This is two years after becoming the oldest mountain gorilla recorded to give birth.

Fossey set up camp in the Volcanoes National Park in 1967 and Poppy was born nine years later. Fossey was murdered, probably by a poacher, with a machete in her cabin in 1985. She was 53.

Fossey said of Poppy:

“Poppy could only be described as beautiful, with large, soft dark-brown eyes framed by long delicate eyelashes.”

Dian Fossey

She said also:

[That her mother Effie had] endowed her infants with a keen self-confidence”.


Scientists were surprised to see that Poppy had joined a new social group late in her life. She had a baby with a young male in this group. She broke the mould for what experts had known about female mountain gorillas. The last time she was sighted the group with whom she lived had been disrupted by a loan silverback male and her infant had died.

It seems that Fossey has left a legacy because in 1967 when she arrived to study the mountain gorillas there were 240 in existence and by June 2016 there were 604.

Rest in Peace Poppy. My thanks to The Times hard copy newspaper.

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