We were satisfied with the new arrangement, although it did seem to marginalize the role of the fauna and flora preservation society in the project that they had initiated through their fund raising campaign. We knew that respected the work of African wildlife leadership foundation and had benefited from excellent advice from its Nairobi based director, Bob Poole, before we began work in Rwanda. Poole had specifically encouraged us to make the effort to work with African institutions and individuals as he was convinced that Africans were ultimately responsible for their own parks and wildlife. Within months of our meeting he was killed in a tragic car accident, and East Africa lost an important voice for conservation. We had also met Jean-Pierre von der becke during an earlier visit to karisoke, and he seemed heartfelt and earnest in his commitment to conservation. With his silver hair attractive features and multiple language skills, he would be an impressive team leader. Now we needed to know where we fit on the team.
Our interest lay in the education and tourism components of the mountain gorilla project. We had the necessary experience with gorillas and schools, excellent contacts, language skills and familiarity with how things worked and didn’t work in Rwanda. We had also laid the conceptual groundwork for the whole project, invested considerable time and energy in its promotion and were ready for action, so when Robinson Mcllvaine visited Rwanda to formalize arrangements for the MGP, we looked forward to our first meeting with him. After a brief presentation though, MCLLVAINE cut us off. AWLF will only support anti-poaching work. The other activities are unnecessary. This was Dian’s view, but it was surprising to hear it from the head oof an organization that had built its reputation on local education programs and had seen firsthand the power of tourism to help save East Africa parks. But then came the real shocker. It is my understanding that you two are very selfish people and that you just want to stay on to become famous. WE knew that the ambassador had spent the prior evening talking with Dian, but we still weren’t prepared for this unfound assault on our character and motives. Putting his rudeness aside, we turned to our ideas and justifications for the education and tourism aspects of a three –pronged conservation program. We noted that we could work on these issues independently with continued support from the wildlife conservation society, but we thought that a cooperative approach would be more productive for all concerned. Mcllvaine dropped his personal attacks and became somewhat more engaged in the discussion.
Ultimately, he came to support the idea of a three-prolonged mountain gorilla project in which we would manage the tourism and education components while acknowledging Jean-Pierre von der becke as project director.