February 22, 2002

Contact: Sarah Ray
Posted: February 22, 2002

MIDDLEBURY, VT - Amy Vedder and Bill Weber, internationally recognized conservationists, will discuss their new book, "In the Kingdom of Gorillas: Fragile Species in a Dangerous Land," on Thursday, March 7, at 7 p.m. at Middlebury College. Published in September of last year, the book is the story of their battle to save the mountain gorillas of Rwanda from extinction. The event will take place in Room 216 of Bicentennial Hall on Bicentennial Way off College Street (Route 125), and is free and open to the public.

In 1978 as a young married couple, Vedder and Weber traveled to Rwanda to study the mountain gorillas with well-known researcher Dian Fossey. They experienced the joys of mingling among the gorillas and getting to know the characters of individual animals. They also endured their first heartbreak when a young female gorilla, injured by poachers, died in their arms from infection. Against Fossey’s wishes, Vedder and Weber eventually determined that the key to saving the gorillas was the creation of an eco-tourism program, the Mountain Gorilla Project, that benefits the Rwandan people.

While in Rwanda, the couple also witnessed destruction resulting from civil war, the country’s subsequent efforts to create stability, and the ravages that the AIDS virus has brought to the nation. All the while, they conducted extensive field research and documented the political challenges of establishing their program. Despite war and in large part because of Vedder and Webers’ project, the population of mountain gorillas is currently the highest it has been since the 1960s. The authors will discuss how critical it is to understand a country’s beliefs, society, politics and economics to ensure that conservation efforts are realistically aligned with local culture and ultimately successful.

For more information, contact Scott Barnicle, Middlebury College dean of Atwater Commons, at 802-443-3310 or sbarnicl@middlebury.edu.

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