Academy of Achievement Logo
Achiever Gallery
  The Arts
  Public Service
 + Science & Exploration
  My Role Model
  Recommended Books
  Academy Careers
Keys to Success
Achievement Podcasts
About the Academy
For Teachers

Search the site

Academy Careers


If you like Jane Goodall's story, you might also like:
Robert Ballard,
Lee Berger,
Susan Butcher,
Sylvia Earle,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
Stephen Jay Gould,
Edmund Hillary,
Donald Johanson,
Meave Leakey,
Richard Leakey,
Ernst Mayr,
Greg Mortenson,
Sally Ride,
Richard Schultes,
Tim White and
Edward O. Wilson

Jane Goodall can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

Jane Goodall's recommended reading:
The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle

Related Links:
Jane Goodall Institute
Roots and Shoots

Share This Page
  (Maximum 150 characters, 150 left)

Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall
Profile of Jane Goodall Biography of Jane Goodall Interview with Jane Goodall Jane Goodall Photo Gallery

Jane Goodall Interview (page: 4 / 9)

The Great Conservationist

Print Jane Goodall Interview Print Interview

  Jane Goodall

Is there anything you observed in chimpanzee communities that helped you to understand the motivation behind violence in humans?

Chimpanzees basically show aggressive behavior in much the same situations that we do. And yet, I think it's only humans who can be capable of evil. To me, evil is premeditated. It's deliberate. It's thought-out ways of inflicting harm, whether it's physical or mental. You know, we're capable on the one hand of much worse aggression. But on the other hand, it works the same way. We can say, "Well, chimpanzees can be altruistic and so can we, but we can think it through." So while a chimp may leap in to rescue a drowning infant, and a human being may do the same, a human being can act deliberately, knowing that whatever it is they're doing will harm them in the future, but they do it anyway, whatever the consequences.

So we're capable of worse behavior and more noble behavior. And basically it comes down to aggression for dominance. We like power for the sake of power. We want to dominate over our fellows. That's a very human and chimp characteristic, particularly for the male. If we are female, we want the best for our child. We will fight to get the best for our child, whether we're mistaken or not, but that's what we think we're doing. We fight over resources, whether it's fruit or oil, but being humans we take it all a step further and we get into economic wars. Chimp warfare is like gang warfare, very much the same. I've talked to gang members, and they say, "Yeah, it's much the same. We fight over territory." We fight over resources, whatever it happens to be. But the sort of cold calculated wars in which we use weapons of mass destruction, they're far beyond the capabilities of a chimpanzee. It doesn't have the intellect. But I'd hate to say, if they did, they would be the same as us.

In 1975, what did the chimp named Passion do that was unlike any other chimp behavior you'd seen?

Jane Goodall: In 1975 came the shock of Passion, and her daughter Pom, killing and eating newborn babies of females in her own community. And over about four years, ten infants disappeared newborn, of which six we knew were victims of Passion and Pom. And I thought this was totally aberrant behavior. Then both Passion and Pom had their own babies and it stopped. But more recently, we've seen exactly the same with Fifi and her daughter Fannie. So it's clearly some strange behavior. We do not understand it. But both Passion and Fifi (were) very high-ranking, otherwise, they couldn't do it.

Who do you think harbors grudges more, male chimpanzees or females?

Jane Goodall Interview Photo
Jane Goodall: I think male and female probably harbor grudges equally, but sometimes it's easier for a male to vent his rage immediately. He's likely to be high-ranking. Females sometimes, if they're in the presence of males, there's nothing much they can do about it. But if it's a young female, and her brother comes who's higher-ranking than a male who's perhaps attacked that female, she will remember for quite a long time, and then incite her brother or whoever it is to help her attack the male who hurt her.

Returning to Passion for one more minute. Why do you think she stopped killing infant chimpanzees?

Jane Goodall: Passion stopped killing infants because both she and her daughter got a small baby at the same time, so there was no way that they could act as a team. They were encumbered now by tiny babies.

Do you make a correlation between them killing infants and then having infants, other than the fact that there was just no time?

Adult males will kill an infant of a neighboring group, and even, on some occasions, have partially eaten that baby. But that's to do with intercommunity aggression, and the mother is the one that they're actually trying to kill. But within the community, these attacks seem to be like hunting, just like hunting a young monkey, so we have absolutely no idea why they do it. And the following day, the hunter, Passion or Fifi, may sit down peacefully with the mother whose baby they tried to kill the day before, or whose baby they have killed the day before. It's very strange. And you know, there is so much we still have to find out about chimpanzees. So much.

Was there anything in the upbringing of these chimps that would make sense of this behavior?

Jane Goodall: No. It doesn't make sense. It's nothing to do with how you were raised. I really don't think so. I don't know what it is. Maybe their newborn smells different and he's not part of the community, therefore it's a stranger. But then they eat it just like normal meat. It's really bizarre.

When chimpanzees hunt, is it opportunistic or is it deliberate?

Jane Goodall: Chimpanzee hunting can be opportunistic, like they come across a baby bush bok lying on the ground and they'll catch it and kill it. Or it can be very deliberate, like seeing colobus monkeys on the other side of the valley. Hair bristling, reach out, touch each other, and set off on a hunt.

What about adoption or foster parenting among chimpanzees? How does that come about?

Jane Goodall: There is a very, very close bond between siblings, because when a new baby is born the older child is about five but remains emotionally dependent on the mother, travels with her for at least the next three years usually, and maybe much longer. That means that the bond between mother and daughter and son gets stronger, but also the bonds between the brothers and sisters. And it turns out that this bonding between siblings is really important, because if a mother dies and leaves a child who's older than three, and thus able to survive without milk, then if there's an older brother or sister, that sibling will adopt the infant and then the infant has a chance of surviving. Because we've now had a good many cases where an infant will ride about on the back of the older brother or sister, sleep with them at night. The older one will share food with them. And the males are just as good caretakers as the females. We have occasionally had a non-related individual adopt and provide foster parenting for a motherless orphan, including a 12-year-old adolescent male who was not related -- certainly not closely -- to a three-and-a-quarter-year-old infant, and save that infant's life. No question.

If a one-year-old chimpanzee's mother dies, that chimp will need milk in order to survive. Is adoption by nursing chimpanzees possible?

Jane Goodall: There is one case from a study. I think it was in Ivory Coast, where a nursing mother did look after the baby of her friend, maybe a sister. We don't know. But we haven't seen that at Gombe. It's certainly possible. And the closest we've come to it is a very peculiar series of events, where for three years running, a mother stole and looked after the baby of her daughter. Three years running, newborn baby within the first day of life. Gaia's mother Gremlin stole Gaia's babies, including twins. She couldn't keep any of them alive. The second was stillborn, then came the twins. One lived for five days. One lived ten. But fortunately, just two weeks ago, I heard that Gaia has had another baby and this time she's kept it and she's together with her mother and all is well. So I'm really, really happy. Why Gremlin behaved that way? Again, it's one of the mysteries we simply don't know. Go and get surprises after 50 years!

When a three- or four-year-old chimpanzee's mother dies, what is necessary? What elements are essential for a successful adoption among chimpanzees?

Jane Goodall Interview Photo
Jane Goodall: The orphan, in order to survive, needs to be cared for by another individual who's able to carry that child, to provide reassurance if necessary, to share food. But I think the most important thing is to try and guide the child away from socially roused adult males. Because when big males are in the middle of a charging display, when they're in this dominance conflict, when they're socially roused, if an infant gets in the way they'll just pick it up and throw it. They lose all their inhibitions. So the adoptive foster parent will make sure that the infant keeps out of the way.

How do chimpanzees respond to the death of another chimp in their clan?

Jane Goodall: We've occasionally seen chimps responding to coming across the body of a dead adult. They seem very curious. They sniff the ground. They may climb up a tree, sniffing, pick up leaves and smell them. It's as though they wonder, "How did this individual die?" or "Was there a leopard?" Because the leopard is the one predator that could kill them, although we've never seen this at Gombe. But they're curious. They become very quiet. They don't do any burial, nothing like that. They just quietly go away. The mother will carry the dead body of her baby for several days until it gets too smelly.

Flint's response to Flo's death was perhaps more extreme?

Jane Goodall: Flo's son Flint was only four-and-a-half, which is very, very young, when his sibling was born. And we now know that all of Flo, Fifi, all of that family, they had very short inter-birth intervals, much shorter than usual, which is five to six years. And so Flint was very dependent when his little sister was born, and he still wanted to suckle. He insisted on riding on his mother's back while she was carrying the new baby beneath. He insisted on pushing into the nest. And because Flo was old, teeth worn to the gums, she didn't have the energy to push him away to independence. So when that new baby died, Flo herself was sick. It was some kind of flu. She then took Flint back as her infant after the baby died. And so Flint remained incredibly dependent. And when Flo died he was already eight years old, but it seemed that when Flo died his world came to an end. And he showed signs of clinical depression, immune system weak. He died within a couple of months of losing his mother.

Jane Goodall Interview, Page: 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   

This page last revised on Aug 20, 2009 16:01 EDT
How To Cite This Page