Weber, William 1950-
WEBER, William 1950-
Born 1950; married Amy Vedder (a wildlife conservationist and writer); children: Noah, Ethan. Education: University of Wisconsin at Madison, Ph.D.
Home—Yorktown Heights, NY. Office—Wildlife Conservation Society, 2300 Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY 10460.
Wildlife observer and conservationist in Africa and America, 1978—; Wildlife Conservation Society, Bronx, NY, director of North American Programs.
(With wife, Amy Vedder) In the Kingdom of Gorillas: Fragile Species in a Dangerous Land, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001, published in England as In the Kingdom of Gorillas: The Quest to Save Rwanda's Mountain Gorillas, Aurum, 2002.
William Weber and his wife Amy Vedder began observing mountain gorillas in Rwanda in the late 1970s as part of a team headed by Dian Fossey. While Fossey brought the plight of the dwindling gorilla population to the attention of the world, it was Weber and Vedder who proposed and helped to implement viable programs to conserve the gorilla's habitat. Weber has been at the forefront of the eco-tourism movement, encouraging African governments to see their unique wildlife as a means to generate revenue from tourism dollars. Additionally, as director of North American programs for the Wildlife Conservation Society, Weber has spearheaded projects to improve conditions for wildlife in America, from introducing wolves back into Yellowstone Park to studying less invasive ways to harvest timber.
In the Kingdom of Gorillas: Fragile Species in a Dangerous Land recounts Weber and Vedder's experiences in the field watching gorillas as well as the subsequent vicissitudes the nation of Rwanda faced in the 1990s. The book sounds notes of optimism amidst a tale of spectacular brutality. Although a virulent civil war in Rwanda led to almost a million deaths in the time period the book covers, remarkably the gorilla population actually increased. Weber believes that this is due to the fact that both sides in the civil war realized that gorillas help the Rwandan economy by attracting tourists. In her New York Times review of In the Kingdom of Gorillas, Natalie Angier 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."
Although Weber and Vedder express hope that the mountain gorilla population will stabilize in Rwanda, they still warn that more needs to be done to support the species—and that the gorillas' needs conflict with subsistence pressures on the human population. In the Times Literary Supplement, David W. Macdonald observed: "Conservation is not a simple matter of good people pursuing unambiguously worthy goals—it is about human affairs and as such is bedeviled by rivalries, anxieties and complexities of politics of every scale. 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."
Other reviewers found In the Kingdom of Gorillas successful on a variety of levels. According to Jonathan Shipley on Bookreporter.com, "The story of the gorilla is sparking with emotional force, and the chronicling of their plight and their growing success … makes for an informative and ennobling story." Geographical correspondent Miranda Haines wrote: "As a testament of suffering, survival and ultimately hope, this book is a fascinating read." Steven N. Austad maintained in Natural History that the authors "provide a vivid portrait of a land desperately trying to put itself back together," and Library Journal contributor Clewis Crim felt that the book "is a case study in how conservation must be grounded in the realities of people."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Geographical, September, 2002, Miranda Haines, "Gorilla Warfare," p. 57.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2001, review of In the Kingdom of Gorillas: Fragile Species in a Dangerous Land, p. 1202.
Library Journal, October 1, 2001, Clewis Crim, review of In the Kingdom of Gorillas, p. 138.
Natural History, November, 2001, Steven N. Austad, review of In the Kingdom of Gorillas, p. 82.
New York Times, January 15, 2002, Natalie Angier, "Joy in Rwanda: Signing On with the Gorillas," p. F1.
Publishers Weekly, September 24, 2001, review of In the Kingdom of Gorillas, p. 82.
Times Literary Supplement, October 18, 2002, David W. Macdonald, "Gregorians in the Mist," p. 32.
Environmental News Network,http://enn.com/news/ (September 26, 2001), Stacy Fowler, interview with Amy Vedder.
Northcounty News,http://www.northcountynews.com/ (November 6, 2002), Margaret and Bill Primavera, "Bill Weber and Amy Vedder: Conservation, Gorillas and Lacrosse."*