Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dian Fossey Life and Death

Gorilla Tourists

<em>Gorillas in the Mist</em> by Fossey
Gorillas in the Mist by Fossey

Fossey spent most of the next three years in the United States.

The success of her book, Gorillas in the Mist, published in the summer of 1983, filled her bank account at the right time. Foundation funding for Karisoke had dried up, as threatened, and Fossey began paying the bills herself when she returned to Rwanda in November 1983.

By then, gorilla tourism was becoming a stampede. Fossey was left with nebulous feelings about these species-specific safaris.

She understood, of course, that publicity about her work had helped create the interest and that she herself had once been a gorilla tourist, on her first visit to Africa in 1963. She also acknowledged that Rwanda desperately needed the income from foreign visitors.

Tourists & guards with a gorilla
Tourists & guards with a gorilla

But she wrote that gorilla tourism was "the goose that laid the golden egg," a reference to the morality fable about greed destroying the source of good. Tourists left behind litter and disease, and their movements interrupted the travel patterns of the gorilla groups. She began to perceive erratic behavior among the gorilla groups and reached the conclusion that stress from tourists was the cause.

"Maybe poachers aren't the worst thing to happen to the gorillas," Fossey wrote. "Maybe we are."

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