When Jane Goodall was a little girl in the 1930s, she was given a chimpanzee stuffed animal. A constant companion, it and the books she read (Dr. Dolittle and Tarzan novels) fueled her love for both chimps and the African continent, setting her on a career path that has continued for over five decades.
A primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, UN Messenger of Peace, and founder of both the Jane Goodall Institute and the youth-focused Roots & Shoots, Dr. Goodall is world renowned for her groundbreaking work in documenting chimpanzee behaviors and culture. A summary of her early work:
Jane had a daunting assignment – find and get close to wild chimpanzees, documenting their behavior to shed light on our own evolutionary past. She rose to the occasion, very quickly making the first observations of any wild animals making and using tools. Jane also observed chimps hunting bushpigs and other animals, disproving the widely held belief that chimpanzees were primarily vegetarians.
Through subsequent years, Jane opened the world’s eyes to the complexity and richness of chimpanzee communities, writing of close family bonds, dominance struggles among males, human-like communications such as pats on the back and hugs, and much more.
Today the Gombe chimps are perhaps the world’s best-known, and the Gombe research program represents the world’s longest continuous wildlife study. JGI’s Gombe Stream Research Center is a hub of scientific inquiry for researchers from all over the world.
In the 1980s, Dr. Goodall shifted her focus from science to advocacy, working to create chimpanzee sanctuaries, bring awareness to the chimps’ habitat loss, and fight the threat of poaching. Her efforts also shed light on deforestation and other environmental concerns facing human populations in Tanzania and around the globe.
In 2010, Jane Goodall took 60 Minutes reporter Lara Logan to the forests of Tanzania, shown above. You can see additional videos of Dr. Goodall on JGI’s Vimeo page, including a video that went viral in 2013.
Read more about Jane Goodall in The Guardian. There are also two excellent children’s books about her that we recommend and love reading: Me… Jane and The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps.