Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dian Fossey Life and Death

Conflicts with Natives

Unfortunately, Dian Fossey never developed the same affection for most humans that she felt for gorillas. She had nothing good to say about — or to — any of her African employees. In her journal, letters, reports and conversations, Fossey consistently lambasted the Africans for various shortcomings.

She wrote in her journal, "My cookboy, Phocas... is so rude and insolent I hate having him here... The same holds true with the park guards. You can't be nice to them. If you give them a cigarette one day, they want the pack the next. So I go around giving orders and grumbling..."

Dian Fossey & African team
Dian Fossey & African team

She picked up the same theme in a letter to her mother, quoted in Mowat's book:

"These Africans may yet be my undoing. Much as I dislike having to do it, I've written Dr. Leakey for help in the form of a cussing, wog-whacking 'mzunga' — a white person — to enforce some discipline. Since I've been here alone for so long, they are beginning to bully me because, to their way of thinking, I'm a lone entity."

Another of Fossey's peeves was the natives who grazed their domestic livestock amid the gorilla habitat in the park. Over time she became shockingly strident in her treatment of the illegal grazers. More than once she took up a rifle and shot cows owned by a native whom she believed had violated park regulations against grazing.

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