Dr. Jane Goodall’s curiosity and love for animals blossomed at a very young age. At four, she was already making behavioral science observations with hens “to see where the egg came out.” 1 Then, at eleven, she fell in love with Tarzan. “But Tarzan’s Jane was a real wimp. I thought I would be a much better mate for Tarzan myself.” 2 And she was probably right.
Dr. Goodall’s scientific research of chimpanzees at Gombe represents forty years of uninterrupted and unparalleled study. Most of what the world today knows of chimpanzees comes directly from Dr. Goodall’s observations, and it all began with a single trip, an invitation to visit her school friend in Kenya. “I worked as a waitress and saved up the wages and tips until I had enough for a return fare by boat. And so at 23 I waved goodbye to family, friends and country and set off for this amazing adventure–an adventure that is still going on today.” 3
Upon arriving in Africa, she came under the tutelage of anthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey, and with merely a high school equivalent education, she established a research camp in Tanzania where her childhood ambition became a reality: “to watch free, wild animals living their own undisturbed lives. I wanted to learn things that no one else knew, uncover secrets through patient observation. I wanted to come as close to talking to animals as I could.”4 And this she did, documenting her research for National Geographic teaching us all about our closest relatives, while earning her PhD from Cambridge.
“Living under the skies, the forest is for me a temple,” she said. “The most wonderful thing about fieldwork, whether with chimps, baboons or any other wildlife, is waking up and asking yourself, ‘What am I going to see today?'”5
Certainly, what Dr. Goodall saw changed our view of the world forever, and challenged scientists to rethink their perceptions of mankind’s place in nature. She was the first to document chimpanzees using tools, modifying objects to fit a certain purpose, an act that was previously thought unique to man. “Chimpanzees differ in DNA structure by just over 1%. They reason, they solve problems. My work blurs the line once perceived as sharp between humans on one side and non-humans on the other.” 6
Today, Dr. Goodall continues to travel around the world, tirelessly persuading scientists, politicians and students of all ages to join in the cause for protecting endangered chimpanzees. Towards this mission, she established the Jane Goodall Institute, Chimpanzoo, and Roots and Shoots, a program for school children, showing them that they too, can make a difference. “Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help shall all be saved.” 7
Determined to demonstrate the tremendous impact that one person can make in the world, Dr. Goodall travels constantly, never staying in one place for more than three weeks. But she doesn’t feel that she has to do this alone. “Above all, we must realize that each of us makes a difference with our life. Each of us impacts the world around us every single day. We have the chance to use the gift of our life to make the world a better place –or not to bother.” 8
Lucky for us, Dr. Goodall bothered. And even with the hundreds of chimps held in captivity, mistreatment in the entertainment industry and the rapid deforestation in Africa, Dr. Goodall remains optimistic. “As I travel the world, I feel a change in people. People are tired of this destructive materialistic, greedy lifestyle and are looking for something different.” 9
“If only we could overcome cruelty with compassion. We should make a gigantic stride toward achieving our ultimate human potential, moving beyond the Age of Reason to the Age of Love.” 10
1 Goodall. Reason For Hope. p.6.
2 Toms, Interview with Jane Goodall.
3 Toms, Interview with Jane Goodall.
4 Biography: Early years in Africa. https://www.janegoodall.org.
5 Biography: A Day in the Life of Jane Goodall. https://www.janegoodall.org.
6 Goodall. 40 Years. p. 11.
7 Goodall. 40 Years. p. 5.
8 Words of Wisdom, Jane Goodall. http://www.wic.org.
9 Toms, Interview with Jane Goodall.
10 Goodall. 40 Years. p. 88.
Goodall, Jane. 40 Years at Gombe. (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 1999).
Goodall, Jane, with Philip Berman. Reason for Hope, A Spiritual Journey. (Warner Books, 1999).
Toms, Michael. Interview with Jane Goodall. newdimensions.org 1998.