Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Virunga: The Passion of Dian Fossey

Title: Virunga: The Passion of Dian Fossey
Author: Farley Mowat

My image of Dian Fossey was uninformed and incomplete. To me, she was a champion of a quickly disappearing species, the mountain gorilla. I held in her such high esteem that I almost had to put the book down when I learned she used to cripple and shoot cows, that she would kill the dogs of poachers, and like us all, she was a deeply flawed, complex human.

Her whole life was devoted to a small group of gorillas roaming the misty forests and mountains of Rwanda. Devotion is perhaps an understatement.

I am glad to have learned more of her flaws, her human foibles. I appreciate what she did to save those gorillas even more. How large of a burden it must have been to be the sole person standing in the way of an entire species' extinction. Some of her tactics I would never agree with, but I feel a small portion of the agony she must have experienced finding the gorillas she had come to love decapitated and dismembered on the forest floor.

When Dian Fossey was alive, there were less than 300 mountain gorillas alive. Without her, I think they would have all perished, victims of poaching, encroachment, zoo trade and accidental snaring. Really, I do. She forced people to see us in them.

Today, there are nearly 800 mountain gorillas. They are still endangered and still face the same threats they did thirty years ago, but they have a greater chance of recovering now.

The book itself is easy to read. It is engaging, although frustrating...good biographies always are when you learn the subject, you know, human. : )

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