If gorillas were to have any chance

If gorillas were to have any chance, the scales had to be rebalanced through a program of active intervention. Factors favoring the gorillas and their forest habitat needed to be amplified, negative factors reduced. Education could help in the long run to increase Rwandan knowledge and understanding of the gorillas. The practical value of the natural forest for local water catchment protection could also be stressed. Anti-poaching could be intensified although such an effort would likely strengthen negative attitudes toward the park, at least in the short term. All of these actions were good. But the over whelming need was for a major source of revenue and employment to offset the powerful interests of MINAGRI and to win the hearts, minds and money pouches of those who lived around the Parc des Volcans. Politicians could be trusted to follow the money. Only tourism offered the potential to meet this need and radically alter the equation.

There was no such thing as ecotourism in 1979.Nature tourism was well developed in East Africa, but it was strictly limited to savanna parks and a few high mountains of interest to alpine climbers. We had seen firsthand a poorly manages program of gorilla tourism in Eastern Congo, where the Kahuzibiega Gorillas were clearly unsettled by a lack of control over visitor numbers and behavior. Now we had to improve on that program to make it work for mountain gorillas and for the Rwandan people. We also needed to convince a daunting array of often opposing interests of the value and absolute necessity of our plan.

FRIDAY WAS ONE OF TWO DAYS when porters delivered mail and food supplies to Karisoke. Dian was kneeling on the floor of her cabin, surrounded by piles of correspondence that she received from around the world .Most were letters from fans and supporters of her work. The letter in Dian’s hand was also intended to show support for her efforts. It was from Sandy Harcourt and it stated that he and John Burton of the British fauna and flora preservation society had established the mountain gorilla preservation fund to r from gorilla conservation in the Virungas. This was in early 1978.The brutal killing of digit a few months earlier had been widely publicized in Britain and the fund intended to convert the public’s sympathy and anger into money for action. Dian saw matters differently.

Its blood money. Its digits money! Dian’s eyes were red and her face contorted as she uttered Harcourt’s name like a curse then spat on the woven raffia mat on the floor beside her trip to US in the wake of digits death, Dian and some of her backers had established the digit fund to channel contributions from America. Within a few months she was receiving a modest flow of money, but the digit fund was not the immediate success she had hoped it would be. In contrast the mountain gorilla preservation fund was launched with a major media blitz and was backed by the fauna and flora preservation society, the most respected British conservation organization at that time. Worse, Dian saw the fund as a creation of sandy Harcourt someone she despised as former “student” who she believed had turned against her.

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