Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dian Fossey Life and Death

Poachers

But she saved her most venomous vitriol for poachers.

They moved like shadows in small groups through the Parc des Volcans. Most were armed with spears and machetes, not guns. Some hunted for meat to survive, targeting antelope, bushbuck, buffalo and the hyrax, a rabbit-like creature.

But others specifically targeted gorillas to sell their trophy hands and heads on the international souvenir black market.

After lobbying by Fossey, the Rwandan government agreed to station anti-poaching patrols at her Karisoke center. The patrols managed to push the poachers around a bit, and sometimes they would haul in a suspect.

Fossey frequently exacted corporal punishment, beating the accused with a cane or the stalk of a nettles plant. She often used an additional tactic: fake black magic. With fire, gunpowder and flares, she would pretend to cast a spell on the suspected offender, hoping that word would get around among poachers of her extraordinary powers.

Indeed, she came to be regarded as a little crazy, perhaps deservedly.

Fossey had a long-running battle with a notorious poacher named Munyarukiko. In the spring of 1972, she discovered that Munyarukiko had staged his own arrest by park guards, who collected a $120 reward, split it with the poacher, then released him.

Fossey marched to Munyarukiko's camp, burned his belongings and kidnapped his four-year-old son, whom she held for a day before releasing him.

In her journals, she referred to her incidents of livestock-shooting, vigilante assaults and kidnapping as "my latest no-no."

Categories
Advertisement