The Karisoke research center is a research institute in Rwanda’s volcanoes national park founded in September 24th 1967 by Late Dian Fossey, with an aim of studying the endangered mountain Gorillas. Fossey located the research institute in Rwanda’s Virunga volcanic mountain ranges, between Mount Karisimbi and Mt Bisoke combining the two names to come up with ‘’Karisoke’’.
Dian Fossey, the pioneer of the research center was born on January 1932 in San Francisco USA and she spent her first life time savings on her first trip to Africa. Though murdered in December 1985, the camp continued to operate under the prophetic token of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund international. In 2012, Karisoke moved its headquarters to more modern facility in Musanze.
The activities that are illegal created both threats to the gorillas and their habitat in which they succeed with other species of animals that live here. Research of the gorilla fund international shows that the efforts to protect gorillas are responsible for the increase in the number of mountain gorillas.
The Research institute together with the Gorilla Fund international provides protection to the remaining gorillas in the Virunga Mountains and goes ahead to carryout patrol to fight poaching and other illegal practices. The Gorilla Fund international also supports Uganda, Congo and Rwandan Authorities to do joint patrols for the same cause.
Dian Fossey writings in her book Titled “the Gorillas in the mist,” notes that little did she know that by establishing two small tents in the wilderness of Virunga was a great cornerstone for what would later become a great research center worldwide and used by academicians from various parts of the Universe.
Fossey is credited for having started the practice of gorilla Habituation, tracking, and identification that later resulted into gorilla safaris in Rwanda and entire Virunga conservation area. Protection of the endangered mountain gorillas has led to the increase in their population; the research center is always patrolling the volcanoes national park areas to combat poaching and illegal activities that can interfere with gorillas and their habitat.
Visiting the Karisoke research center is very nice; you can stand at the site where Dian Fossey was buried. The research center has also a small museum which showcases the insights of conservation as practiced by this gorilla heroine – Dian Fossey, videos about customs of mountain gorillas, biology, and more.
The mountain gorillas residing within the Virunga massif amount to over 500 as listed by IUCN as endangered. However, due to the practices of the locals living within the national park such as setting traps for Ungulates, fetching firewood, cutting of trees, clearing land and lots of other illegal activities, mountain gorillas are still living under threat of extinction.
Karisoke research center has now transformed to modern technology, partnering with local authorities and other conservation organizations.
In the year 1993, Karisoke research center developed a research GPS to monitor the movement of gorilla groups and also hyper spectral remote sensing imagery to manage the mapping of gorilla habitats in Rwanda.
The research center is also responsible for habituating golden monkeys and collaborated with University of Rwanda providing filed research opportunities. The center was later transferred to a multipurpose building in Musanze which is now a new regional center for the Dian Fossey gorilla fund.
Touring the Karisoke research center is one of the activities one should add on their bucket list while visiting Rwanda, visitors can also do gorilla trekking and wildlife watching in the country. The best time to visit Rwanda is during the dry season when the roads are accessible and the walking trails for gorilla trekking, golden monkey experience, hiking, etc. are all in good condition.
Located in Rwanda’s north-western province in Musanze district; in Volcanoes National Park, one can get to Karisoke research center within a 2 hours of drive from Kigali international airport.