Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dian Fossey Life and Death

Revenge

Fossey held the man for several days before turning him over to government authorities, and the Rwandan government complained to the U.S. embassy, which in turn griped to National Geographic Society, by then her primary funding source.

She received a telegram from Melvin Payne, president of National Geographic:

"WE ARE GREATLY DISTURBED BY OFFICIAL REPORT RECENT INCIDENT INVOLVING YOURSELF AND POACHERS STOP FULLY UNDERSTAND YOUR POSITION BUT URGE UTMOST RESTRAINT IN VIEW YOUR STATUS AS ALIEN RWANDA TOTALLY DEPENDENT UPON GOVERNMENT GOODWILL FOR CONTINUATION YOUR RESEARCH."

She later received an official letter from the Rwandan government, warning against any publicity "that would discredit Rwanda and Rwandan parks."

Fossey agreed to a meeting at the American embassy in the capital city of Kigali, and she sat steaming as an old Belgian colonial governor, J.P. Harroy, castigated her for Digit's death. Belgian advisors to the Rwandan government believed gorilla tourism was one of the poor country's few possibilities for income.

"He had the nerve to say that Digit had been killed because of me," Fossey wrote in her journal. "He said the poachers wanted revenge because I've stopped their activities... Harroy also had the audacity to tell me that it was wrong for me to catch one of Digit's killers!"

Fossey dismissed Harroy's ideas as those of a "senile old man." But later events would make his words seem like a harbinger.

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