Dr Jane Goodall: Queen of the Jungle

By Mariam Digges

Dr Jane Goodall: Queen of the Jungle
British primatologist, environmentalist and humanitarian Dr. Jane Goodall has devoted her life to the study of chimpanzees. She speaks to MiNDFOOD ahead of her tour.

Travelling the world to further the plight of our planet, the soon-to-be 80-year old’s touring schedule would still make most pop stars shudder.

Few primatologists can claim to have reached rock star status, but through her work in the fields of science and animal conservation, Dr. Jane Goodall has influenced everyone from Angelina Jolie to Prince Charles.

Having spent 45 years studying chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park, Goodall is responsible for revolutionising our understanding of our closest primate relatives.

“It took months working as a waitress to save up enough money for the boat fare,” recounts Goodall, “And when I finally got to Gombe, the chimpanzees ran away every time they saw me. It was a long time (three months) before they began to accept me.”

Admitted into Cambridge University as a Ph.D. candidate despite no previous university studies, Goodall, a UN Messenger of Peace, was criticized by her peers for her unconventional techniques, including naming the chimps rather than numbering them, and for attributing the Pan troglodytes with having human emotions and minds.

“Fortunately, my childhood teacher, my dog Rusty, had taught me the professors were wrong,” she quips.

It was Goodall who taught us that chimps too experienced adolescence, formed powerful mother and child bonds, and forged political alliances to climb up the ranks.

“I found there are good mothers and bad mothers, just as in human society,” she says.

“It was a shock to find that chimpanzees, like us, have a dark side and are capable of violence and brutality, even a kind of primitive war between neighboring communities.”

Eventually, National Geographic sponsored her work and sent Goodall photographer, filmmaker (and future husband) Hugo van Lawick to document her life in Gombe. It led to her first published article in 1963: My Life Among Wild Chimpanzees and to the building of the Gombe Stream Research Centre.

Her time in Africa also confronted her with the dramatic decline in chimpanzee numbers due human population growth, habitat destruction and commercial hunting of all wild animals – the bushmeat trade.”

But in 1975, Goodall’s work in Gombe reached a roadblock when four of her students were kidnapped and funding was withdrawn from the project.

“Eventually the quarter million pound ransom was paid,” she retells. “But for the next several years, Gombe was deemed no longer safe for foreign students.”

“That is when some friends in California started the Jane Goodall Institute so that I could raise money for research.”

Since a life-changing conference in Chicago in 1986 (“I arrived at that conference as a scientist, leading the life I had dreamed of as a child:  I left as an activist,” she recalls), the conversationalist has been on the road some 300 days a year, furthering her own research while spurring people into action by publicising “the mess we have made of our planet.”

A devout environmentalist, Goodall’s interests extend from the animal kingdom to the wider state of the planet. She lists an “unsustainable” Western lifestyle, a growing hunger for meat, and the “divorce” between nature and society as the biggest threats to the environment today. With this in mind, Goodall launched Roots & Shoots, an education program for young people, in 1991.

“People need to understand that while small individual choices – turning off taps, walking instead of driving, recycling – would not make a difference if made by only one person, when several million people make the right, ethical choices, this makes a huge difference.”

Of the throngs of celebrities who call her a friend, Goodall exalts the efforts of a select, special few.

“Those I know best who are speaking out for various conservation and social causes are Pierce and Keely Brosnan, Angelina Jolie, Harrison Ford, Michael Douglas, and Dave Matthews. Prince Charles and Prince William are pushing to protect forests and also, along with Hillary Clinton to stop the slaughter of elephants for their ivory.”

Dr. Jane Goodall arrives in Australia on May 30 for a string of live shows, events and leadership seminars. See below for the full details. Tickets on sale via Ticketmaster.

Jane Goodall – Celebrating her 80th Year, Hosted by Jennifer Byrne

Location: Sydney

Venue: Sydney Town Hall

Date: Saturday 31 May 2014

Jane Goodall – Celebrating her 80th Year, Hosted by Jennifer Byrne

Venue: Melbourne Town Hall

Date: Thursday 5 June 2014

Jane Goodall – Celebrating her 80th Year, Live at Australia Zoo, Hosted by Ray Martin

Featuring special guests Terri & Bindi Irwin

Location: Beerwah, Sunshine Coast

Venue: Australia Zoo

Date: Sunday 8 June 2014

Jane will speak in Sydney on May 31 and Melbourne on June 5. For details on tickets, go to www.janegoodall.org.au


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