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In the Kingdom of Gorillas: Fragile Species in a Dangerous Land Hardcover – September 25, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dian Fossey brought world attention to Rwanda's endangered mountain gorillas in 1978, but the animals have survived largely because of the pioneering work of ecologists Weber and Vedder. Realizing that gorilla conservation was not a priority for a country facing staggering economic and development problems, they persuaded skeptical authorities that a program combining research, ecotourism and education could both protect these majestic primates and generate economy-boosting revenues. Their Mountain Gorilla Project, implemented over Fossey's objections, proved successful, with recent gorilla censuses showing dramatic population increases. Weber and Vedder's fascinating account of their years in Rwanda describes thrilling, sometimes heart-breaking gorilla encounters, and analyzes their painful relationships with Fossey with bracing honesty. But the book's larger, and more complex, subject is conservation in a war-ravaged postcolonial world struggling with increased competition for finite resources. Weber and Vedder ably portray Rwandan society, fraught with ethnic divisions and governmental corruption that not only threatened wildlife conservation but imperiled human safety. Their description of the 1994 genocide of Tutsis by Hutus based on reports from friends still in the country at the time is a chilling reminder that humans, too, are a fragile species. "We can't love animals or save wildlife," Weber and Vedder conclude, "without understanding the social, economic, and political context in which conservation occurs." Though they concede that "complete understanding [of a different culture] is a myth," they argue persuasively for continued efforts to this end. Agent, Gloria Loomis. (Oct. 4)Forecast: If ever a conservation book gets attention, this will be it. The combination of intimate primate portraits; sociopolitical observation; scientific conflict; successful, sustained activism; and intercultural cooperation, with the help of a four-city tour, will attract readers of many stripes.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Here is the long-awaited update to the fate of mountain gorillas in Rwanda, as written by the married couple who joined Dian Fossey at her Karisoke research facility in the late 1970s. Although Fossey's is the more familiar name owing to her groundbreaking contact with the gorilla and subsequent grief over their deaths because of poaching, Weber and Vedder have ultimately accomplished far more to insure their survival. Unlike Fossey, they believe that the key to saving the gorilla is to create an ecotourism program that will benefit the Rwandan people. Much of the book is a detailed account of both field research and the political challenges of establishing the Mountain Gorilla Project, but the final chapters are devoted to a chilling portrait of mass genocide in the early 1990s. This important book is a case study in how conservation must be grounded in the realities of people: "We can't love animals or save wildlife without understanding the social, economic, and political context in which conservation occurs." Highly recommended for both academic and public libraries. Beth Clewis Crim, Prince William P.L., VA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (September 25, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743200063
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743200066
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #596,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Gae A. Weber on March 9, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Let me start by saying that the only criticism I have of this book is that it doesn't talk about the gorillas themselves, their lives and behavior, all that much. If you want a natural history of gorillas, look elsewhere.

Having said that--this is an excellent book and I highly recommend it, especially if you're going to Rwanda. The book follows the development of the Mountain Gorilla Project from the last years of Dian Fossey's life through the Rwandan genocide and beyond. It is written by the couple who took over the Project after Fossey's murder, and tells their story in fascinating detail. It is a record of the ongoing struggle to maintain a national park in a poor country, of the commitment and hard work of a few people--Europeans, Americans, Rwandans--in difficult and even deadly circumstances, and, most importantly, of the interactions of poverty, politics, personality, corruption, ignorance, education, inspiration, fear, courage, joy and tragedy in the real world of conservation biology.

While this is about one country, one park (mostly) and one species, it will give the reader a much clearer understanding of the diffculties faced by field biologists, park rangers, conservationists and governments the world over who are trying to preserve wild places.

The book is written in a lively, conversational style and makes every effort to be even-handed with some difficult personalities (Fossey's not least of these). Even though the book devotes only a chapter to the horror of the genocide, it presents the events in both a larger context and very personal, affecting detail. In fact, one of the great strengths of the book is its graceful incorporation of the big picture and the snapshot to tell a whole story.

If you're going to Rwanda (or if you've been there)--BUY THIS BOOK!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Carol A. Padgett on January 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
Mountain Gorilla conservation and protection is a tenuous, difficult and sad story of the plight of these wonderful, intelligent beings. The truth of Dian Fossey's last years is also painful to digest. This book is forthright and eye-opening.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Catrina Cattaneo on June 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I read this book while in Rwanda for gorilla tracking, and, as such, was really hopeful that it would give me greater insight into the history of Rwanda and the gorilla conservation movement.

While there is much within the book that is interesting, I found myself so turned off by their continued sniping and disparagement of Dian Fossey's character (even in the pages immediately following her death), that I had to question their perspectives and motives overall. They struck me as "Salieris"... so clearly jealous of her, her fame (which they have obviously never achieved) that their petty remembrances (she drank too much, she didn't give us wood) tainted the whole book. They were hired by her, clearly had a personality clash and then never got over it. Or perhaps they felt these tabloid "inside scoops" on Dian Fossey would help to sell more books?

Either way, they have lost. They didn't seem like good scientists or good people to me.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The goal of the Weber-Vedder research team goes way beyond the single-minded documentation of one species: they study not only the life of the mountain gorilla, but also their changing habitat and the needy humans who share it. Amy Vedder is a biologist, her husband Bill Weber a social scientist, and their multidisciplinary approach to conservation offers a fresh look at opportunities to create win-win situations for both the animals and the humans who live near them.

In a lively and fast-paced narrative, Weber and Vedder document threats to the gorillas from 1978 � 1992, presenting graphic accounts of animals injured by snares, beheaded by poachers, exposed to diseases borne by humans, allowed to die for lack of medical care, and forced to live in ever decreasing habitats, with more and more limited food supplies. Working first with Dian Fossey, whose battles with the bottle and mental illness are well documented, they eventually found the Mountain Gorilla Project, working with local governments and international foundations to develop educational programs, slow down the devastation of forests to create farmland, and make Rwandans proud of the unique environment they share with the animal world.

The outbreak of the Rwandan civil war in 1993, and the ensuing genocide of over a million people, which no western nation or the U.N. intervened to prevent, are depicted dramatically, emotionally, and thoroughly, as the research team returns to Rwanda to find their workers dead, missing, or in jail. Ironically, the gorillas are thriving. As the country tries to heal its wounds and rebuild, the authors comment about values: "There are more than a few Rwandans who wonder if the Western world would have intervened more quickly and forcefully if mountain gorillas, rather than Africans, were being slaughtered in 1994." In Rwanda, it may be the humans who are the more fragile species in this dangerous land. Mary Whipple
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stewart Brand on January 8, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It's also one of the best book on conservation. Webber & Vedder accomplished astounding things in Rwanda, under extremely difficult circumstances. I recently experienced the gorilla-visiting service they founded for the Mountain Gorilla Project at Volcanoes National Park. It was indeed moving and thrilling, and its connection to the local people was manifest.

Thanks to the Peace Corps for introducing the authors to a then little-known corner of Africa. Thanks to Bill McKibben and Terry Tempest Williams for inspiring them to write an inspiring book.
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