The last of the original "gorillas in the mist," a troupe observed by primatologist Dian Fossey before her death in Rwanda more than 30 years ago, is believed to have died. Though the mountain gorilla population numbered 600 in 2016, up from some 240 in 1967, per CNN, the gorilla named Poppy, who would've turned 43 in April, hasn't been spotted since a series of interactions with an aggressive male silverback last summer. The male killed Poppy's infant and twice injured the leader of her group, eventually found in hiding, according to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, which operates a camp within Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park. Poppy was nowhere to be found at the next sighting at the end of August. Though noting Poppy had previously moved between groups, staff were then "concerned about her survival, given her age and the stressful events."
In a Tuesday statement, the nonprofit said the gorilla was "believed dead." Born in 1976, she'd been a favorite of Fossey, who said the "little darling ... could do no wrong." Her sister Maggie—likewise descended from a "legendary matriarch of a family whose members are spread across many gorilla groups in the Volcanoes National Park"—was reportedly Sigourney Weaver's favorite while filming the 1988 Oscar-nominated flick Gorillas in the Mist. But Poppy's lineage "was only one way she was remarkable," according to the fund. For example, Poppy stunned researchers two years ago when she became the oldest recorded mountain gorilla to give birth at 41. "Being able to observe Poppy over so many stages of life gave researchers a wealth of knowledge," says Fossey Fund CEO Tara Stoinski. The gorilla has five surviving children. (This park ranger nabbed an awesome gorilla selfie.)