THE ADVENTURES OF JANE GOODALL: WILD AT HEART
On July 14, 1960, a young 26 year old Jane Goodall arrived on the shores of Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. A move that directly determined the remainder of her life’s work.
As a girl Jane Goodall had nurtured a love for all animals since early childhood. She read the adventures of Tarzan of the Apes and Dr Dolittle as she hid in the highest branches of the trees in her Bournemouth garden.
Goodall visited Kenya at the urging of a friend. Dr Jane Goodall decided to move to Kenya in 1957 due to her penchant for living with the wild animals of Africa. She was rewarded with the chance to study chimpanzees in the remote mountains of Tanzania by famous anthropologist Dr Louis Leakey.
He was looking for someone to dedicate time to the study of chimpanzees in the wild, for the purposes of the study of evolution. In light of the study, Dian Fossey went to live among mountain gorillas in Rwanda, and Birute Galdikas went to study orangutans in Borneo, Malaysia.
Though Goodall had no college degree, Leakey determined that she was the woman for the job. He sent her to study the primates with renowned primatologists from London.
I wanted to come as close to talking to animals as I could – to be like Dr Dolittle. I wanted to move among them without fear, like Tarzan
The world did not have a strong understanding of chimpanzees or their close genetic ties to modern man at the time.
“There were no people out in the field whose research I could read about, except one man who painted himself with baboon poo and sat in hides, hoping chimpanzees would appear.”
Goodall’s approach was to engulf herself in the chimpanzee habitat and study their day-to-day behaviors up close, rather than as a distant observer. Instead of numbering her chimp subjects, she named them and observed their individual personality traits. As a result this method has continually called into question her objectivity in studying her subjects.
Jane says: “When I tried to get closer, they ran off. I was an intruder but I never had thoughts of quitting. I should have lost all self respect if I’d given up.” They slowly began to accept her.
STUDIES & FINDINGS
An older male chimpanzee Jane had named David Greybeard would change people’s views on the world. Uniquely, she witnessed the male chimpanzee strip the leaves from a twig, insert it into a termite nest, and use it as a spoon to collect his meal. Not only did this findings suggest that not only humans made and used tools but it also suggested a closer relationship between humans and chimpanzees.
Some experts tried to dismiss Jane’s discovery as she was “a young, untrained girl”, but Dr Leakey saw the importance of this finding. In order to support her scientific credentials, Dr Leakey sent Jane to Cambridge University, where she earned a Ph.D. in Ethology (the science of animal behaviour).
Dr Jane Goodall’s studies uncovered that chimpanzees have a complex social system. They have their own form of language, they go to war, use touch and comfort to bond. Furthermore the study showed chimpanzees are not vegetarian.
“Staring into the eyes of a chimpanzee, I saw a thinking, reasoning personality looking back at me. I felt very much that I was learning about fellow beings, capable of joy, sorrow, and jealousy.”
RAISING A CHILD IN THE WILD
When she married National Geographic photographer Baron Hugo van Lawick and they had a son called Grub. Grub spent his susceptible years in a cage, staring out from the bars at the wild creatures of Gombe Stream National Park in northwest Tanzania. It was dangerous for him there. Chimpanzees eat other primates. They have been known to take infant humans. The cage was a great safety measure.
In 1977, Dr Jane Goodall founded the Jane Goodall Institute, which houses most of Jane’s research and continues the work she began in Gombe. It has offices around the world. In Kenya, there’s the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary at the Ol Pejeta Conservacy. She is the face and driving force behind efforts to protect chimpanzees and their natural habitat.
By the 1980s Jane realised she had to protect the chimps from the growing threat of extinction. According to the Jane Goodall Institute, more than one million chimpanzees lived in Africa a hundred years ago. While today that number could be as low as 340,000. In light of this, she has been devoted to raising awareness of their declining numbers and raising money for conservation.
Dr Jane Goodall is a board member for “Save the Chimps”, the largest chimpanzee sanctuary outside of Africa. She serves on the board of the Nonhuman Rights Project, and is a United Nations Messenger of Peace.
Dr Jane Goodall has also written a number of books:
- Through a Window, which discusses problems associated with keeping chimps in captivity.
- In the Shadow of Man, a study of chimpanzees.
- The Chimpanzee Family Book, a children’s book.
She has received several honors, including:
- The National Geographic Society Centennial Award.
- The Schweitzer Medal of the Animal Welfare Institute.
- The Gold Medal of Conservation from the San Diego Zoological Society.
- The J. Paul Getty Wildlife Conservation Prize.
- The Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences.
- Dr Jane Goodall has also been named a Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.
It has now been 60 years since Jane began her remarkable research. In addition this makes it the longest continuous study of any animal.
The documentary “Jane” directed by Director Brett Morgen premiered live on National Geographic.