Alain Monfort of ORTPN appeared to be caught off guard by the news Bill wondered if Alain was unwilling to acknowledge the park service’s impotence in the face of MINAGRI. Or perhaps as Belgian functionaries, he simply couldn’t go against powerful government and European interests. Monfort said he would learn what he could. Bill set up meetings with government officials for the following week and returned to Karisoke to spread the news.
Our personal relationship with Dian at that point ranged from negative to nonexistent. On work related matters though we made a persistent effort to keep communication channels open.And even though she was essentially a rec luse, Dian knew she needed some contact with the outside world, at least with regard to matters affecting her gorillas. If we brought news of poaching, Dian reacted viscerally. She was animated and in command. Call up vatiri organizes patrols. Nemeye take a gun. At the end of the day she would want a full debriefing from every one usually separately in the main room of her cabin. Her reaction to the news of another major parkland conversion however was strangely passive, almost indifferent. She certainly was unaware of the plan and Dian didn’t like being out of the loop. Perhaps she knew that events at this scale were beyond her control that she vatirir and Nemeye were powerless to halt the forces of destruction. After all, she had been at Karisoke when 40 percent of the park was cleared for pyrethrum in 1969, and she couldn’t alter the outcome except to recover a few acres around the Visoke parking area. Now ten years later, Dian was also a different person from the dynamic woman who first staked her claim high in the Virungas. Perhaps the loss of another one third of the Parc des Volcans simply fit with her own increasingly dark view of the future. They are all going to die was all she could say.
WE WERE TOO ENERGIZED for passive acceptance and too young to believe that we could not change the course of events. Our experiences and research results also convinced us that we were closing in on an approach that might turn the Rwandan equation in favor of gorilla and park conservation. First we needed just a little more information about the opposition.
Votre demarche m epate! The Belgian advisor to the ministers of agriculture certainly looked astonished. How can you even think about gorillas in a country where the people are so poor? Farmers need the land, and if gorillas are on that land, then that are too bad for the gorillas. People’s needs come first. Bill listened to the arguments and imagined that it was rare for this middle aged technocrat to become so impassioned about a subject. Later in the discussion, the advisor was less self assured when asked why a cattle project was needed if what the poor farmers required was land. Bill was escorted down the hall to the office of the director of live stock husbandry for further information on that apparently tricky subject.
The director was a very thin Rwandan, with thick glasses and a crisply pressed white shirt and tie. He was proud of the project that would be run through his office and eager to describe its anticipated benefits.