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Meet Bosco, Dian Fossey's Right-Hand Man

Legendary primatologist Dian Fossey spent decades documenting the lives of the mountain gorillas of Rwanda. Now, scientists are exhuming the bodies of those gorillas to learn about evolution. Researcher Erin Marie Williams is part of that team, and sent this sixth dispatch from the field.

Today, we climbed to the saddle between two volcanoes, Karisimbi and Visoke. (Put them together to get Karisoke, the name Dian Fossey gave to her research center when she came to Rwanda in 1967.) We kept a brisk pace courtesy of Jean Bosco Bizumuremyi.

Bosco is field operations coordinator for the Karisoke Research Center and head of the anti-poaching patrol. Cross Indiana Jones with Sidney Poitier, and you're close to my impression of Bosco. He seems like the kind of guy who can run up a mountain in the morning, help nab some poachers by lunch, chill with gorillas for tea, repair a bridge with just his Leatherman, and be home to tuck his children into bed. This week, Bosco took us to visit the original site of Fossey's research center, nestled in the volcanoes' saddle.

Bosco has a long history at Karisoke. His father was a porter for Fossey in her early days, and Bosco started in 1984 as a temporary employee. In 1985, Bosco became a full-time meteorological data collector. He lived at Karisoke with Fossey, whom he said was like a mother, until her death. Bosco taught Fossey the local language, Kinyarwanda, as well as French. She taught him English and Swahili. On cold evenings, they shared tea and beers.

After Fossey's murder, Bosco continued at the center, working as a tracker and following the escapades of the gorilla Tiger. Tiger was a solitary male looking for a companion, so he made a bold move and wooed one of the female gorillas from another male's group. But he didn't get the chance to woo many more ladies; he developed a respiratory infection and died a few months later.

After Tiger's death, Bosco joined the anti-poaching patrol he now helms. When he began at Karisoke, only Fossey and four others were living at the center. There were a total of 11 staff members; the organization has since grown to more than 100. Bosco is now one of a precious few remaining who actually worked with Fossey.

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