Into the Mist
She is a hero to me. Obviously not for being a loner, a so-called racist ~I suspect she was just a misanthrope~ or possibly mad (some would say I’m well on my way to all of these myself), but for having found her calling and giving her whole being to it. She made a world of difference. This world, our world, has mountain gorillas surviving in it only because Dian Fossey lived for them. Died for them.
Ms. Fossey told her story in the book Gorillas in the Mist, which was made into a compelling movie starring Sigourney Weaver. I watched it again recently. It’s heart-breaking and shameful how close we came to destroying them. They still exist on the razor’s edge.
But now, almost 30 years later, Rwanda values its gorillas just as they are, wild and free. Tourism is allowed, tightly controlled, and expensive. Each family group is visited by one small group of tourists daily. For one hour, no more. The traditional naming ceremony of human children ~Kwita Izina~ is performed annually, publicly, and officially sanctioned, for each new gorilla infant born in the wild. In 2014, there were 18. Represented by a human child in costume, the infant is introduced to the citizenry and named. The psychology of this is profound. It takes gorillas from being distant creatures, with no greater purpose than exploitation through poaching and sale, to individual beings… with names… living in families like our own. And the children who stand-in for the young gorillas, symbolically bearing those names? Woe betide the poacher who wants to butcher their gorillas.
We are going to meet some of those gorillas this month, in their wild home. Ms. Fossey gave them a second chance when they were doomed. Their numbers have doubled since the 1980s, but 880 mountain gorillas aren’t many at all. Poaching still happens. Diseases ravage. Their rain forest home is eaten away by “progress” and its by-products. I am honored to have the privilege to see them now, while there is still hope for them. And if we can manage to share the world with them, maybe there is hope for us as well.