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National Geographic Special Collections: Archives & Film Preservation Blog

The Mountain Gorilla (1973)

by Karen Cerka on 2023-05-25T17:52:00-04:00 | 0 Comments



The Mountain Gorilla film documents Dian Fossey’s groundbreaking research on gorilla behavior in the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  She received 16 National Geographic Society grants between 1968-1984 (Geopedia) to do this vital work. 

Dian Fossey presented The Mountain Gorilla to members of the National Geographic Society on November 16, 1973.  It served as a report of her research that was primarily funded by the Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration.  The footage was filmed by photographer, Robert M. Campbell between 1967-1972, who was asked by Robert Gilka, the Head of Photography to remain on the project long term, and it was then edited by NGS staff editor Ronald S. Altemus.  The edited film highlights Fossey’s most significant observations of mountain gorilla behavior, such as feeding habits, vocalizations, grooming habits, nest making, and play behavior, including how infants learn how to play. The film also shows how Fossey identifies the gorillas – by nose prints because each is unique.  The only similarities are amongst gorillas that are related to each other.  The footage showed people that gorillas were gentle and sociable creatures and that their behavior was very much like our own, and Fossey’s work helped to increase protection and conservation of the species.

Dian Fossey received the NGS Franklin L. Burr Prize on January 11, 1973.  It was awarded in recognition of her significant contributions to science through her courageous and diligent study of the mountain gorilla in remote forests of Africa.


This film was preserved with a grant from:




For more information about Dian Fossey’s research, please read the following articles that she wrote for the National Geographic Magazine:

“Making Friends With Mountain Gorillas,” January 1970
“More Years With Mountain Gorillas,” October 1971

“The Imperiled Mountain Gorilla,” April 1981

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Banner Photo Credit: Renan Ozturk.