Jane Goodall has been an ambassador for the chimpanzee world for fifty years since she first stepped into the Gombe Forest, Tanzania in 1960.
With no prior experience or scientific grounding she embarked on an incredible journey into the wild African forests where she met families of chimpanzees and lived in their community as one of them.
Her discoveries startled the scientific community and turned the way we view many primates on it head. He observed patterns of behaviour identical to man’s including greetings, emotional displays like hugging and kissing, laughter, anger, playing, tool making and even barbaric acts of violence towards their own.
In an interview with CBS 60 Minutes she was asked if she was surprised by their violence to which she replied, “Yes, I thought they were like us but nicer. They’re just like us”.
Many scientists frowned upon her methods, even calling the validity of her findings into question after she named individual subjects instead of numbering the – a practise used to eliminate emotional attachment.
Through blood and DNA tests she discovered that primates are 90% matched with man and we share communicable diseases which means that humans must be vaccinated when coming into contact with chimps.
Her research at the Gombe Stream challenged the long standing beliefs that humans were the only creatures to craft and use tools, and that chimpanzees are vegetarians. She has catalogued studies of chimps fishing for termites by dipping grass into termite mounds and witnessed them strip leaves from twigs to make them more effective tools.
In 1977 she established the Jane Goodall Institute which supports the Gombe research. She still works hard today to protect the habitats of dwindling chimpanzee communities which she attributes to forestry, poaching and wild animal traders.
In 1991 a global youth program called Roots and Shoots was formed by 16 teenagers who met with Goodall as they were eager to allay concerns they had over animal welfare after first hand experiences with wild chimpanzees. The organization is currently represented in over 100 countries by some 10,000 groups.
Today, aged 76, Jane Goodall still extols the virtues of a vegetarian diet and being a full time animal welfare activist she says, “Thousands of people who say they ‘love’ animals sit down once or twice a day to enjoy the flesh of creatures who have been utterly deprived of everything that could make their lives worth living and who endured the awful suffering and the terror of the abattoirs–and the journey to get there–before finally leaving their miserable world, only too often after a painful death.”
CBS aired its 60 Minute documentary last night, an excerpt of which you can see by clicking here .
Images: PR Photos, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jane_Goodall_HK.jpg