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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

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Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall
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Jane Goodall Interview (page: 7 / 9)

The Great Conservationist

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  Jane Goodall

After more than 25 years with the chimpanzees at Gombe, you attended a conference in 1986 that was sort of a turning point in your professional career. Could you tell us about that?

Jane Goodall: For several years I worked on writing a book, The Chimpanzee of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior, in which I was going to summarize the research results of the first 15, 20 years, whatever it was. And as I went in deeper and deeper into this, I realized that to write the kind of book that I probably should, I needed to learn all sorts of things which I would've learned had I been an undergraduate, which I had never learned, which had always made me feel a little bit at a disadvantage if I was talking to a real scientist. So the Ph.D., yes. But what about all this ground work, all this learning about endocrinology and things like that? So I taught myself these things in order to write the book, the things I felt I needed.

[ Key to Success ] Preparation

And when the book was published, and I felt for the first time that I was the equal of these white-coated scientists in the labs and so forth, my great friend Paul Heltne -- from the Chicago Academy of Sciences at that time -- said, "Let's have a conference to celebrate. This is the first really long-term book on one species." And so we brought together, for the first time, chimpanzee researchers from all over Africa, and some noninvasive captive research like zoos and things. And during that four days, we had one session on conservation, and one on conditions and some captive situations, and those two sessions changed me totally.

I came out as an activist, because in that session on conservation, seeing right across Africa the destruction of habitat, seeing the beginning of the bushmeat trade, the commercial hunting of wild animals -- including chimps -- for food, the session on the secretly filmed footage in some of the medical research labs, utterly shocking. And now I have this new self-confidence, because of publishing that book and learning what I didn't learn, know before. I came out as an activist. And since that day, I haven't spent more than three weeks in any one place, except once when I tore the ligaments on both ankles and I needed an extra week or so to get better.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

Since then I've been traveling the world, going in wider and wider circles, trying to raise awareness about the situation we've plunged the planet into, starting with the plight of the chimpanzees, learning more about the plight of the forest, realizing more about the problems of Africa. Realizing how many of those could be laid at the door of the developed world and our unsustainable lifestyles, and our greed in taking more of the resources than is our fair share, and the other elite communities around the world, including in Africa. Learning how everything is interrelated, learning more that made me realize, "Well, I have to spend time in the U.S., I have to spend time in Europe. I must spend more time in Asia." So it's become a ridiculous lifestyle, traveling 300 days a year.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

I wouldn't do it if it didn't appear to be having an impact on the people who come to listen to my talks, trying to find time in between to write books, because I love writing books. I love sharing by writing and trying to use the gifts I was given. It's not something you learn how to do, to be able to communicate. Yes, you can get better at it. But I always wanted to write books to share. And then I found that not only could I write books to share, which people wanted to read, but, but I could also give lectures that people wanted to come to, and it made an impact. And if they didn't, I wouldn't do them. I could go back to living in the forest, which is what I love. But how can I go and live in the forest when it's disappearing? And I feel that maybe there's something I can do, by inspiring others to take action so that we create, hopefully, a critical mass of people who think differently.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

There's now a chimpanzee sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Can you tell us how that got started?

Jane Goodall: Yes, Tchimpounga. When I was learning about the plight of chimps across Africa, I was lured by the then-ambassador Dan Philips and his wife Lucy to Burundi, because the chimpanzee situation there was pretty grim. Chimps were being hunted in the then-Zaire and brought over the border. I met chimpanzees who'd been bought as pets or taken to hotels. We began confiscating them and set up a little temporary halfway house for chimpanzees, ready to move them into a more permanent sanctuary. And then Dan Philips and Lucy moved to Congo.

I went to Congo, and there, met for the first time, in the meat market, a little chimpanzee infant beside the cut up body of his mother. And we were able to go to the Minister of the Environment, who confiscated the chimp. And a woman living locally (Graziella Cotman) said she would look after him. And that led to a whole spate of confiscations. And Graziella's infant family grew and no longer could she keep them in her home. So at that time, Conoco, the oil company, was working near Pointe Noire on the coast, and they agreed to build a sanctuary. And that sanctuary now has 141 orphaned chimpanzees, most of whose mothers have been eaten. And it's a nightmare. We have to feed them. We are trying to put them out on some islands. We have to compensate the people living on the islands. We have to deal with the government. There are changes in regime which negate everything that we organize. We've worked out with one government and now we have to start all over again with a new government. And meanwhile it's very, very expensive country. It was tied to the French franc for a long time, and it's actually a nightmare. And this is just one of many sanctuaries in Africa for chimpanzees, for gorillas, other animals as well. I wish that we didn't have to be involved with sanctuaries. I wish there was no need to be involved in sanctuaries. We have to build up endowments for them.

Dr. Goodall, can you tell me what happens when you see one chimp for sale in a cage or one chimp is taken out of the wild? What is the truth behind seeing that one chimp?

Jane Goodall: It's sad to say that for every baby chimp that one rescues, probably ten individuals have died. We don't actually see most of the babies. They die on the scene of slaughter of the mother. Others are taken off into villages and raised by children as pets, but they will die too, or be eaten. And when a hunter shoots the mother, there may be other individuals in that community to come and attack the hunter, and they will be killed as well. So for every infant chimpanzee that survives to be bought, to be rescued, at least ten will have died. And it means that -- whereas, when I began in 1960, there were around, well between one and two million chimpanzees in Africa -- today there's no more than 300,000 max, and they're spread over 21 nations, many of them in small isolated pockets of forest with just about no chance of long-term survival.

And those 21 different countries are not talking to each other about a conservation effort?

Jane Goodall: There is no unified agreement between the different countries with the chimpanzees. There are organizations that are persuading each of those countries. That's GRASP, the Great Apes Survival Plan of UNEP (United Nations Environmental Programme). GRASP is going around to all the different governments, getting them to sign a great ape management plan. But creating laws and implementing those laws are two different things. While in some respects, I think we're moving closer to solutions, in other respects we're losing ground.

This bushmeat trade is the commercial hunting of wild animals for food. It's not to feed hungry people, it's to make money. And when the logging companies -- the foreign logging companies -- have moved in and made roads, the hunters from the towns follow and they shoot everything. In the old days, subsistence hunters didn't do that. They didn't shoot a mother with her baby. What's the point? That means in the long run you will be harming your own future. But today, yes, shoot a mother with a baby and shoot an elephant, a gorilla, a chimpanzee, an antelope, a bird, a bat, anything that can be cut up and smoked or sundried, and trucked in on the logging truck to the markets to be shipped out, sometimes overseas. And it's totally unsustainable. And not only is it unsustainable for the animal populations, but the people living in the forest who were subsistence hunters, who'd lived in harmony with the forest for hundreds and hundreds of years, now they face a damaged future as well.

Can you tell us about the TACARE reforestation education project?

Jane Goodall: TACARE (Take Care) was started to sustain villages that border existing wildlife programs. It supports their coexistence by creating alternate forms of revenue via education, water sanitation, family planning and HIV-AIDS education.

Can you tell us how that program started and what it's doing now?

Jane Goodall: One of the film teams that's always coming to film the Gombe chimps wanted to fly over the whole area in the small plane, and I went with them. And although I knew there was deforestation outside the park, I had not realized that it was total until that day, and looking down, seeing more people living on the land than it possibly could support. Seeing how this had led to soil erosion, led to bare, almost desert-like situations, where there had been forest when I arrived. Realizing that the Gombe National Park was a tiny 30-square-mile island of forest, surrounded by completely bare farmland. Realizing people were struggling to survive. Questioned how can we even try to save these precious chimpanzees -- of which, by then, early '90s, there were not many more than a hundred -- when all the surrounding people are having such a difficult time. So that led to our Take Care program. And that, from the very beginning, was holistic, designed to improve the villagers' lives in many different ways. Everything from tree nurseries to reforestation to regeneration of existing forest, farming methods best suited for the degraded land, ways of restoring fertility to the soil without pesticides.

Jane Goodall Interview Photo
Gradually getting money from other organizations, so that we could include water supplies, better sanitation, school rooms for the over-populated schools, dispensaries, encouraging the government to supply and staff the dispensaries that we built. Working with groups of women, providing microcredit opportunities so they could start their own environmentally sustainable development programs. Providing scholarships for girls to keep them in school, realizing that all around the world, as women's education improves, family size drops. Working specifically with women, and providing information about family planning, very important. If you're going to grow more food, you're going to have more babies. If you have more babies, the situation will continue deteriorating. So family planning and HIV-AIDS education. And at the beginning, working with George Strunden, this wonderful man who designed the project, everyone said, "You've got to focus. You can't do everything."

George and I felt strongly that everything was interconnected. There was no point dealing with health unless you dealt with the environment. There was no point dealing with water programs unless you're also dealing with food, and so on. And it's been one of the most successful programs of it's kind in Africa. We're replicating it. And I think one reason for its success is, never did white people go into a village and say, "Well, you've got yourselves in a mess. This is what we're going to do to help you." It was a Tanzanian team from the very start. We still have that same team today, all these years later, who went into the village and sat down in the traditional African way to listen to the problems and to ask the people what they thought would make their lives better. And what was it? Was it conservation? No. It was education for their children and health. So that's where we began, working with local Tanzanian authorities.

[ Key to Success ] Vision

The Jane Goodall Institute employs this wonderful young man, Lilian Pintea, who has state-of-the-art technology when it comes to creating maps. Satellite imagery, GIS, GPS, teaching the local people to use this complex technology, working with Digital Globe that supplies the imagery for Google Earth, creating these maps, so that people for the first time, they can see, "Here is my house. Here is his house. This is where our village boundary is." Helping them to make the maps required by the Tanzanian government for village land use, which sets in stone: this percentage will be for agriculture, this percentage will be for whatever. Including a minimum of ten percent of land for conservation. So because they love TACARE so much, they've sat down with Lilian and worked their conservation areas into a kind of corridor, so that all this land that was treeless six years ago now has trees that are about 20-foot high. And I've stood and looked at it. And this is just allowing the seemingly dead stumps to regenerate, that's what it's taken. The land is resilient. And now, the chimpanzees will have an opportunity to once again move out and interact with other remnant groups, which may be able to move into this new area and be safe.

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This page last revised on Aug 20, 2009 16:01 EDT
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