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wildlife conservation and jane goodall Wildlife Conservation and Jane Goodall
How She Saved the Chimpanzee, an Endangered Species


Jane Goodall is an English primatologist, ethologist and anthropologist. She is best-known for her work in wildlife conservation and her life among the African chimpanzees. She made a forty-five year study of chimpanzee social and family life in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania. Her research on chimpanzees has been described by Stephen Jay Gould as "one of the Western world's great scientific achievements.” She also founded The Jane Goodall Institute and is a leader in international wildlife conservation efforts.

wildlife conservation and jane goodallChildhood of a Wildlife Conservationist

Famous wildlife conservationist Valerie Jane Goodall was born April 3, 1934 in London, England. Her sister Judy who was four years younger, shared the same birthday. Jane and her sister have a neurological condition known as prosopagnosia, which is a memory impairment. She cannot recognize people's faces, but she has no difficulty recalling the faces and names of the chimps that she has studied.

wildlife conservation and jane goodall as a childJane’s childhood laid the path for her career in wildlife conservation. She was only one year old when her father gave her a large stuffed chimpanzee toy, named Jubilee, which became an inseparable companion. As a toddler, she showed an unusual interest in animal life. She tried to raise a handful of worms under her bed pillow. She spent a long afternoon in the chicken coop to find out how hens laid eggs. Her favorite books were The Story of Dr. Dolittle, The Jungle Book and the Tarzan series, all about life with wildlife in the jungles of Africa. Her mother Vanne always encouraged Jane’s youthful ambition to travel to Africa. This childhood background led her to a career in wildlife conservation among the endangered chimpanzees of Africa.

After the divorce of her parents when she was 8, mother and daughters shared a house in Bournemouth with her grandmother and two aunts, who lost their homes in the bombings of World War II. It was a close-knit, affectionate household.

When Jane graduated from high school in 1952, there was no money for college. So she studied secretarial courses in London and worked for a time at Oxford University typing documents. Then she got a job with filmmakers choosing music for their documentaries. Her career had nothing to do with wildlife conservation.

wildlife conservation and jane goodallHow Jane Found a Career in Wildlife Conservation

A trip to Africa launched her career in wildlife conservation. In May, 1956, Jane’s friend Clo Mange invited Jane to visit her family farm in Kenya. Jane quit her job in London and moved back to Bournemouth, England, to work as a waitress to fund the African trip. In Bournemouth Jane met distinguished wildlife authority Sir David Attenborough.

Jane sailed from London on the Kenya Castle and arrived in Mombasa, Kenya, three weeks later. She was 23 years old. Jane had a wonderful time seeing Africa. The single most significant event of her life occured when she met Dr. Louis S. B. Leakey, the famous anthropologist and paleontologist. Because of Jane’s interest in wildlife animals and her office training, Dr. Leakey hired her as his secretary and assistant. Soon Jane and another young student were in the Olduvai Gorge digging up fossils with Louis and Mary Leakey.

wildlife conservation and jane goodallGombe

In 1960, Dr. Leakey encouraged Jane to study the chimpanzees of Gombe Stream National Park, an endangered wildlife species. Gombe sits along Lake Tanganyika on the borders Burundi and the Congo.

Because the government would not allow a women to travel the jungle alone, her mother came from London to spend several months with her as a “chaperone.” As a wildlife conservationist, Jane lived in a tent, suffered two bouts of malaria, and went a year without speaking to anyone, but she looks back on her Gombe life as the happiest of times.

Jane Goodall's work in wildlife conservation in Gombe has become one of the longest uninterrupted field studies of any animal species in its natural surroundings. Research continues there to this day. Her study of the life and habitat of the chimpanzee has greatly increased our knowledge of primate behavior.

wildlife conservation and jane goodall with her mother in africaObserving the chimpanzees in their isolated habitat, she made an important discovery, their ability to make and use a simple tool to catch termites in their mounds. She observed that chimpanzees are not strict vegetarians, as had been believed, but collaborate to hunt the colobus monkey for food. She reported that they resemble humans not only genetically and physiologically but also behaviorally, with a set of expressive gestures and strong family bonds. Unlike other researchers in wildlife conservation, she gave the chimps names, rather than numbers. Her favorite chimps, David Greybeard, Flo and Fifi have become famous, too. Her wildlife research was funded in large part by the National Geographic Society.

So that her research in wildlife conservation and endangered species would be accepted in academia, Dr. Leakey encouraged Jane to return to England for a degree. She was accepted into the Ph.D. program with no undergraduate background, and earned her Ph.D. in ethology, the study of animal behavior, in 1965.

wildlife conservation and jane goodallFamily Life in Africa

Because she was working in wildlife conservation, National Geographic sent her a filmmaker and wildlife photographer, Baron Hugo van Lawick, who was also living in Africa. They married in 1964, and continued to live together in tents in Tanzania for many years. Their son Hugo Eric Lous van Lawick, nicknamed Grub, was born in Africa and grew up in Gombe. Jane spent her mornings writing or observing, and devoted her afternoons to Grub. Jane and her husband collaborated on films and books about wildlife conservation. They also wrote a book about their son, Grub the Bush Baby.

After her divorce, she married Derek Bryceson, who was the only white member of Tanzania’s parliament and the director of their national wildlife parks. Derek died of cancer five years later.

wildlife conservation and jane goodallWildlife Conservation Publications

Jane Goodall has published 16 books plus 10 children’s books, 14 films about her work and 83 articles in professional journals. In addition, she has written numerous lectures and a huge body of correspondence. It is a monumental body of work in the field of wildlife conservation.

Among her famous books are In the Shadow of Man (1971) and The Chimpanzees of Gombe (1986), Through a Window and Reason of Hope.

Many of the literally thousands upon thousands of letters she wrote to family, friends and colleagues relate to wildlife conservation. They have been published as an “autobiography in letters,” the first volume titled Africa in My Blood and the second volume, Beyond Innocence.

wildlife conservation and jane goodallHonors for Fieldwork in Wildlife Conservation

wildlife conservation and jane goodall with chimpDr. Goodall has received more than 84 major awards for her contributions and achievements in wildlife conservation, as well as for her environmental and humanitarian work. She was named a Dame Commander of the British Empire in a ceremony held in Buckingham Palace in 2004. In 2006, she received the 60th Anniversary Medal of the UNESCO and the French Légion d'honneur.

In April 2002, Secretary-General Kofi Annan named Dr. Goodall a United Nations Messenger of Peace. Her other honors include the Medal of Tanzania, Japan's prestigious Kyoto Prize, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science, and the Gandhi-King Award for Nonviolence. She is also a member of the advisory board of BBC Wildlife magazine.

wildlife conservation and jane goodallThe Institute for Wildlife Conservation

In 1977, Jane established the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), a global nonprofit organization which supports Gombe research and leads the effort to protect chimpanzees and their habitats. With 19 offices around the world, the Institute is widely recognized for innovative, community-centered conservation and development programs in Africa. It also sponsors a global youth program, Roots & Shoots, which currently has over 8,000 groups in 96 countries. Today, Dr. Goodall devotes virtually all of her time to advocating on behalf of chimpanzees, wildlife conservation and the environment, traveling nearly 300 days a year. She is also a trustee or board member of over 50 organizations which work for wildlife conservation, the environment and animal causes.

wildlife conservation and jane goodallWildlife Conservation and Working for a Better World

wildlife conservation and jane goodall recentlyDr. Goodall is working for humane treatment of laboratory and zoo chimpanzees. Chimpanzee DNA differs from human DNA by only just over 1 per cent. As our closest living relatives in the animal kingdom, they show many human characteristics, have a variety of helping and care-giving behaviors and are capable of true altruism.

As Jane says about the chimpanzee, “Surely we should treat them with the same consideration and kindness as we show to other humans; and as we recognize human rights, so should we recognize the rights of the great apes”

The chimpanzee is an endangered wildlife species. 90% of the chimps disappeared during her time in Africa, because the forest cover is disappearing and because the chimps are hunted for food. She has established sanctuaries for orphaned and injured chimps. She speaks eloquently about wildlife conservation, pollution, scarcity of resources, AIDS, global warming and violence.

As a leader in wildlife conservation, Jane continually urges her audiences to recognize their personal power and responsibility for wildlife conservation, and to bring about positive change through consumer action, lifestyle change and activism. She says, “My greatest source of hope for the future is the energy, commitment and often the courage of young people when they know the problems and are empowered to act. They are changing the world.”

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