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Life events of The Last ‘Gorilla in the Mist’ Poppy

by Daniel Sabiiti
8:54 pm


Two days ago Rwanda’s elderly mountain gorilla poppy, the last gorilla that featured in ‘Gorillas in the mist’ was declared to have died in the wilderness of the Volcano Mountains in Rwanda.

Dian Fossey Gorilla foundation, which oversees gorilla protection activities said the female gorilla was last seen in august 2018.

“We now believe that Poppy, the last living gorilla made famous by Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist movie, is likely dead,” the Dian Fossey Gorilla foundationin Rwanda said on twitter.

The announcement made on May 28, 2019, was followed by messages of solace of resting in peace but there are three things that Rwandans can remember about this gorilla which broke scientific knowledge and an extra ordinary royal life.

Beating at life

Scientifically a normal gorilla’s lifespan is believed to be between 35 to 40 years, but Poppy unprecedentedly disapproved this hypothesis.

Born 43 years ago on April , 1976, during the height of poaching in the Greater Virunga Trans-boundary region, the gorilla survived death.

As in the case of all ageing gorillas, they find a quiet place far, far away from their family cluster and groups to go and die a slow death.

No doubt at her age, Poppy made a natural choice to leave her habitat last year and find her death place within another family far away.

Poppy who turned 43 on April 1st, was the oldest female mountain gorilla on record, followed by her sister Puck, who died at age 38.

Changing Science Rules

Poppy was believed to be unique gorilla in that she was studied for her entire life, from birth to old age- 43 years before recently being presumed dead.

At this age, she becomes the ‘miracle’ oldest recorded gorilla to give birth at an old age, which is scientifically not proved possible, but also giving scientists a new study venture.

Because Poppy was monitored throughout her life from birth to old age the foundation says they gained an extraordinary amount of scientific knowledge from her.

For example, at age 41, Poppy became the oldest mountain gorilla on record ever to give birth.

“Being able to observe Poppy over so many stages of life gave researchers a wealth of knowledge. She taught us so much about the rich social and reproductive lives of female gorillas, their dominance structure, and of course, their personalities,” said Tara Stoinski, Fossey Fund President.

Poppy was born in a gorilla ‘royal family’ and a daughter of legendary matriarch gorilla- Ellie. She was also a member of group 5 Susa Group, Ijyambere Group.

Poppy as ‘Gorilla in the Mist’

Poppy featured in ‘Gorilla in the Mist’ (released 1988), an autobiography film of Dian Fossey, a legendary American primatologist and conservationist known for undertaking an extensive study of mountain gorilla groups from 1966 until her 1985 murder.

In her words, Fossey, described Poppy as “As a beautiful, with large, soft dark-brown eyes framed by long delicate eyelashes…Poppy was Group 5’s ‘little darling’. There was something winsome and appealing about her. She could do no wrong,”

In Rwanda, the ‘Gorilla in the Mist’ film is referred to as Nyiramacibiri, in reference to Poppy- the gorilla that featured being saved by Fossey.

In her fame, Poppy managed to meet with an English broadcaster and natural historian, Sir David Attenborough in 1978.

Condolence messages of the passing of this incredible gorilla continue to flock in on social media but at the Fossey foundation Poppy’s life was a blessing to remember and hopefully she continues to fling in the afterlife.

“Elderly mountain gorilla, Poppy lived a long, successful life. Though we are saddened by her passing, we also feel a sense of celebration and gratitude for the opportunity to have known such an amazing creature,” the foundation said.