- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
A rare specimen among the many wildlife-related books out there, this gripping first-person reportage from one of the planet's biological hot spots is extremely well written. Bill Weber and Amy Vedder, a husband-and-wife scientific team, spent almost a decade studying endangered mountain gorillas in the Virunga Forest of Rwanda and designing an internationally funded long-term project for their survival. Despite frustrating obstacles (poachers, unhelpful government officials) and difficult work in a cold, damp environment, they considered themselves "among the luckiest people on earth."
Though loosely allied with Dian Fossey, whose story is related in Gorillas in the Mist, Weber and Vedder found it difficult to work with this mercurial and solitary figure. They believe Fossey's work was instrumental in creating a "a global constituency of millions of people who shared her passion for mountain gorillas." But the book also offers a candid perspective on Fossey's erratic behavior and her sometimes misguided efforts. Unlike Fossey and some other biologists, Weber and Vedder believed strongly that protecting gorillas had to involve Rwandans. If the animals became a source of revenue for local people working as tour guides, park guards, and the like, then conservation would win out over razing the gorillas' lush mountain forests for agriculture and ranching. Their Mountain Gorilla Project was one of the first instances of ecotourism.
The book ends with a description of the appalling ethnic genocide that engulfed Rwanda in the 1990s, when Weber and Vedder were back in the U.S. working at New York's Wildlife Conservation Society. Despite a civil war that put severe pressures on the landscape, the gorillas somehow survived -- they were protected by all sides in the conflict, proof that Rwandans had come to view them as essential to their country and its economic future. What raises this book above others of its kind is the fact that the authors also care deeply about the human species. They see the gorillas' survival in the face of so much adversity as a ray of hope for Rwandans struggling to "bring lasting peace to the beautiful land they call home." (Jonathan Cook)