Vedder, Amy (Louise) 1951-
VEDDER, Amy (Louise) 1951-
Born 1951; married William Weber, 1972; children: Noah, Ethan. Education: Graduated from Swarthmore College, 1973; University of Wisconsin, Madison, M.S., 1982, Ph.D., zoology, 1989. Hobbies and other interests: Coaching soccer and lacrosse, hiking, photography.
Founder (with husband, William Weber) of the Mountain Gorilla Project, Rwanda, Africa, 1979; City University of New York, Graduate Program in Anthropology, adjunct professor; Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, NY, Biodiversity Program coordinator, 1990-93, Africa Program director, 1993-2001, Living Landscapes program, director and vice president, 2001—. Peace Corps volunteer, 1973-75, Eastern Congo (now Zaire), Africa; manager of wildlife conservation programs in more than one hundred projects on four continents; work featured on television and radio, including National Geographic, A & E, Discovery, CNN, NBC News, and National Public Radio; guest lecturer.
(With husband, William Weber) In the Kingdom of Gorillas: Fragile Species in a Dangerous Land, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.
Contributor to scientific journals, including Biological Conservation, Swara, Primate Conservation, and American Journal of Primatology.
WORK IN PROGRESS:
(With others) A Survey of Grauerâs Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla graueri) and Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park Extension and Adjacent Forest in Eastern Zaire.
World-renowned wildlife expert and conservationist Amy Vedder and her husband, William Weber, tell the story of their journey of nearly two decades working to save the mountain gorillas of Rwanda, Africa, by protecting their habitat, in their 2001 book In the Kingdom of Gorillas: Fragile Species in a Dangerous Land. The book begins with their first trip to Rwanda in 1978, when they received a Wildlife Conservation Society grant to work with the famous Dian Fossey, who had begun a study of the gorillas some years earlier. Fossey was near the end of her career as Vedder and Weber arrived and was soon mysteriously murdered. Her violent approach to dealing with gorilla poachers had not been successful. The young couple proposed another way: the creation of the Mountain Gorilla Project and the use of ecotourism to bring desperately needed income into Rwanda and reduce the need for agricultural land, which was taking over the habitat of the gorilla population. Gary Strieker, in an article for CNN online commented that the book "provides a front-line report of the grim early days with legendary gorilla researcher Dian Fossey."
Vedder told Stacey Fowler, of ENN Spotlight, that she and Weber "thought it was an important time to put some … reflections together and let the public know [the] fascinating story, the change that has taken place, and in particular, the current situation" with the gorillas of Rwanda. Vedder told Fowler, "As long as Rwanda remains stable and can progress in a careful way in development the chances of protecting gorillas are greater. At the same time, we must work really hard to protect the population that exists now in the national park."
Vedder and Weber describe in scientific and emotional detail their encounters with the mountain gorillas of Rwanda, with whom they eventually became like family. In a review of the book for the Times Literary Supplement, David W. MacDonald commented, "The authors do not shy away from imponderables.… Why, following [the gorilla] Quince's death, did Icarus and then Park go to her last nest and place their faces on the exact spot where Quince had breathed her last, before sitting together staring quietly into space?"
Natalie Angier, in a review of In the Kingdom of Gorillas for the New York Times, wrote: "Folksy, inspiring, amusing, didactic, depressing, sheerly horrifying and, finally, quietly optimistic, the book highlights the tremendous difficulty of working on behalf of gorillas in a country that is among the poorest and most densely populated regions of Africa, and that in the mid-1990s was the site of one of the worst episodes of genocide in history." Vedder and Weber provide an in-depth look at the problems faced by Rwanda and its people and at the poaching of gorillas that destroyed so many until recent years, when the gorilla population has revived as tourists have brought jobs and the third-largest source of income to the country.
Steven N. Austad, of Natural History, called the book "a vivid portrait of a land desperately trying to put itself back together." Nancy Bent, of Booklist, found it to be an "exciting chronicle of field research conducted in extremely harsh terrain." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews found the last section of the book "rambling" in its coverage of Fossey's death, the 1993 genocide in Rwanda, and other subjects, and concluded that it is "an insightful, if unfocused, glimpse into the problems of conservation in the Third World." Beth Clewis Crim, writing in Library Journal, called the book "a case study in how conservation must be grounded in the realities of people." A contributor to Publishers Weekly summed up the book as a "combination of intimate primate portraits; sociopolitical observation; scientific conflict; successful, sustained activism; and intercultural cooperation."
Jonathan Shipley, in a review for BookReporter, wrote, "The story of the gorilla is sparking with emotional force, and the chronicling of their plight and their growing success (the gorilla populations are the highest they've been since the 1960s) makes for an informative and ennobling story." Miranda Haines, of Geographical, observed that Vedder and Weber's "tale is threaded with intrigue, heart-breaking complications and an amazing story of hope." MacDonald concluded, "As a primer for the often uncomfortable, sometimes unbecoming (but perhaps improvable) reality that lies ahead, every starry-eyed would-be conservationist should read this book."
Vedder is also an editor of the 2001 book African Rain Forest Ecology and Conservation, focusing on the rain forests of Africa, which are poorly known compared to those of South America and Indo-Malaysia. This is a scientific book about the climate, vegetation, and animal and human populations of Africa's rain forests. It also includes discussions of logging and ways to conserve and manage resources without damaging the ecosystems. Africa has already lost more than two-thirds of its rain forests, and civil wars plus the plight of an impoverished people present greater problems for conservation. Bradley C. Bennett, writing in the Quarterly Review of Biology, remarked that the book is a "'must read' for those interested in Africa's tropical forests, its people, and their conservation." He termed it a "truly interdisciplinary and a well-edited volume."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 1, 2001, Nancy Bent, review of In the Kingdom of Gorillas: Fragile Species in a Dangerous Land, p. 289.
Geographical, September, 2002, Miranda Haines, "Gorilla Warfare," p. 57.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2001, review of In the Kingdom of Gorillas, p. 1202.
Library Journal, October 1, 2001, Beth Clewis Crim, review of In the Kingdom of Gorillas, p. 138.
Natural History, November, 2001, Steven N. Austad, "Field Trials: Naturalists Have a Bent for Writing Intriguing Memoirs. This Year Has Seen a Bumper Crop," p. 82.
New York Times, January 15, 2002, Natalie Angier, "Scientists at Work: Amy Vedder and Bill Weber, Joy in Rwanda: Signing on with the Gorillas."
North County News, November 6, 2002, Margaret and Bill Primavera, "Bill Weber and Amy Vedder: Conservation, Gorillas and Lacrosse."
Publishers Weekly, September 24, 2001, review of In the Kingdom of Gorillas, p. 82.
Quarterly Review of Biology, December, 2002, Bradley C. Bennett, review of African Rain Forest Ecology and Conservation: An Interdisciplinary Perspective, p. 473.
Times Literary Supplement, October 18, 2002, David W. MacDonald, "Gregorians in the Mist," p. 32.
BookReporter,http://bookreporter.com/ (May 8, 2003), Jonathan Shipley, review of In the Kingdom of Gorillas.
City University of New York Graduate Center,http://web.gc.cuny.edu/ (May 23, 2003), "Ph.D. Program in Anthropology, Amy Louise Vedder."
CNN,http://www.cnn.com/ (December 30, 2001), Gary Strieker, "African Mountain Gorillas Stage Unlikely Comeback."
ENN,http://www.enn.com/ (September 26, 2001), Stacey Fowler, "ENN Spotlight: In the Kingdom of Gorillas "; October 2, 2001, Stacey Fowler, "ENN Spotlight: In the Kingdom of Gorillas (Part 2)."
Harry Walker Agency,http://www.harrywalker.com/ (May 8, 2003), "Amy Vedder."*