Sunday, 21 November 2010

Making A Difference: Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall

Primatologist, Conservationist & United Nations Messenger of Peace

Image courtesy of:

The least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves.

From the earliest age, Vanne Goodall, Jane's mother, who, along with Grandmother Danny, had a considerable influence on her, encouraging and supporting her daughter in the pursuit of her heart's desire: “You can do whatever you set your mind to.” Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall was born on April 3rd, 1934 into a close-knit family. Four years later, a sister, Judy, who shared the same birthday, was born. Family values such as courage, honesty, compassion and tolerance were instilled into the young Goodall sisters; they were taught to follow their own inclinations and instincts. 
(Sources:, 2010;, undated)

Jane and Judy's father, Mortimer Goodall, was in military service. For her first birthday, Mortimer gave Jane a stuffed toy chimpanzee named Jubilee, named after a famous chimpanzee at the London Zoo at that time, which she still treasures to this day. 

Baby Jane with Jubilee, given to her on her 1st birthday
Image courtesy of:

After the Goodalls divorced, Vanne and her two daughters continued to live with Grandmother Danny at the seaside town of Bournemouth. Animals were an integral part of Jane's childhood, and she loved to play with and care for them (an early fascination with animals was also a trait fostered by her mother). Along with the family there lived a variety of pets, but Rusty, Jane's dog, was by far her favourite. But as much as she enjoyed the company of her friends and pets, she was equally happy to climb up trees where she would sit alone for hours and read (a precocious reader, Tarzan and Dr. Dolittle were among her favourite books and she dreamed of having Dr. Dolittle's ability to converse with the animals). This self-reliance and aptitude for solitude Jane would later find practical in her adult life working as a primatologist, when she was obliged to spend hours alone in observation of wild African chimpanzees.
(Sources:, 2009;, undated)

Image courtesy of:

But life on Bournemouth's seaside would not immune Jane and her family from the onset of World War II and its incipient horrors: the sounds of distant bombings could be heard and planes could be sighted on the horizon. It is alleged that at the age of ten or eleven, Jane saw pictures of Holocaust victims which left a profound impression on her. 
(Source:, undated)

Goodall family photo before Jane's father, Mortimer, left for war service
The three images above are courtesy of:

After finishing school and unable to afford a university education, the nineteen-year old Jane decided to move to London where she found work as a secretary at a documentary film company (her mother had suggested that secretarial skills were invaluable anywhere in the world and thus, may even afford her the opportunity to travel). While still in London, at the age of twenty-two, an opportunity arose to visit a friend in Kenya. She jumped at the chance and returned to live at home in Bournemouth where she found work as a waitress at a local hotel (she would tuck the money earned each night under the carpet in the drawing room); by the age of twenty-three, she had saved enough of the proceeds from her job to set sail on the Kenya Castle on a round-trip to Africa in 1957. She arrived in Mombasa, Kenya, on April 2nd. 
(Sources:, 2009;, undated;, 2010)

Jane with Dr. Louis Leakey
Image courtesy of:

Within weeks of her arrival in Kenya, Jane made an appointment to meet with the famed paleontologist and archaeologist, Dr. Louis Leakey. Taken with her enthusiasm, energy and love of animals, Leakey hired Jane as a secretary/assistant and she accompanied him and his wife, Mary, on an archaeological dig at Olduvai Gorge. Realising that there lacked substantial data in regards to man's closest relative, the chimpanzee, Leakey, as a leading authority on the evolution of man, reasoned that any knowledge gleaned about primates may shed much-needed light on man's own arcane and evolutionary past. Despite her lack of scientific training or professional experience, Jane was eager to undertake the study of a group of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania. The British colonial authorities, however, were none too keen to allow a young Englishwoman alone in the African bush and refused to allow her to travel to the chimpanzee reserve on Lake Tanganyika. (Sources:, 2009;, 2010)

Jane with her mother, Vanne, in their tent by Gombe Stream - 1960
Image courtesy of: 

To resolve the bureaucratic impasse, Jane asked her mother to join her in Africa. Together in 1960, mother and daughter arrived at Gombe Stream in Tanzania. At first, Jane was not successful in securing the reticent chimpanzees' trust and in fact, they fled from her on sight and Jane was forced to observe them from a distance through binoculars. Though discouraged by her initial efforts, over the ensuing months, however, she ever so gradually won the trust of a single male chimp, David Greybeard (Jane's unconventional, unheard of habit of assigning chimpanzees names and not the requisite number, as accustomed scientific practice dictated, signalled a departure: Jane believed that in order to understand animal behaviour, the observer must view an animal as an individual and not as a number. Jane's firm belief that chimpanzees were individuals with personalities, emotions and minds of their own also did not bode well with her scientific colleagues). (Sources:, 2009;, 2010)

Jane during her first months at Gombe, observing the chimps through binoculars
Image courtesy of: 

David Greybeard, toolmaker and the first chimp to venture into Jane's camp
Image courtesy of:

It was a commonly held belief that chimpanzees were strictly vegetarian. It was a belief shared by much of the scientific community at the time; that is, until Jane observed something completely unique through her binoculars. One day, Jane discovered David Greybeard feeding on the flesh of a baby bush pig and sharing his meal with a female; during the course of her studies, she would come to realise that chimpanzees hunted monkeys and other small mammals in cohesive, cooperative hunting groups - a hitherto perceived human trait. (Sources:, 2010;, 2009)

But something more astonishing lay in wait. Two weeks after spotting Greybeard eating meat, Jane, while hiking up to the peak spotted Greybeard in the underbrush again, this time at a termite mound. Greybeard was 'fishing' termites out of their mound using a flexible piece of twig. On consecutive visits to the same spot, Jane watched as Greybeard and another chimp, Goliath, as they stripped twigs of their foliage to create termite-fishing 'tools.' What she witnessed was revolutionary in its meaning: for the first time, chimpanzees were seen creating and using tools in order to access food. Up until Jane's observations, anthropologists commonly held the assumption that only human beings were capable - or intelligent enough - to create and use tools, that tool-making was a defining characteristic of humankind. When Jane excitedly wrote to Dr. Leakey of her findings, he famously replied, “Now we must redefine 'tool, ' redefine 'man' or accept chimpanzees as human beings.” Leakey successfully acquired more funding in support of Jane's studies which came to show that chimpanzees live in hierarchical social groups - dominant males vie with one another for the all-important status of alpha male and to gain access to estrus females. (Source & quote:, 2010)

Jane Goodall in 1964
Photo by Hugo van Lawick

Photo: Landov/CBS

In 1964, Jane married wildlife photographer Hugo van Lawick 
The two images above are courtesy of:

During her studies in Tanzania, Jane met Dutch wildlife photographer, Hugo van Lawick, whose pictures of Jane at work for the National Geographic Magazine helped garner exposure and support for Jane's research work in Gombe (the two were married in London in 1964). On Dr. Leakey's advice, Jane returned to England to enroll at Cambridge University and earn a doctorate in ethology - the science of studying animal behaviour in its natural environment. In 1965, Jane received her doctorate from Darwin College, Cambridge. After they married, the van Lawicks returned to Gombe where Jane established the Gombe Stream Research Centre. In 1965, with the airing of the National Geographic television program, Miss Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees, Jane came to public (and international) prominence. In 1967, Jane gave birth to their son, Hugo - affectionately nicknamed “Grub” - and, following the example of chimpanzee maternal habits, Jane was in constant touch with her son during the first three years of his life; for much of the 1970s, she promoted this primotological example of child-rearing. (Source:, 2009)

Image courtesy of:

Jane and  her husband, Hugo van Lawick, divorced in 1974 but remained amicable; they collaborated on the documentary, People of the Forest. Also in the 1970s, Jane began to observe warfare between rival chimpanzee clans, including acute savagery and even cannibalism. As a result of her studies, it has been theorized that our own aggression and warlike tendencies are rooted in our distant, primatological past. Jane once commented, “When I first started at Gombe, I thought the chimps were nicer than we are. But time has revealed that they are not. They can be just as awful.” Of one conflict, the strategy devised by warring chimp clans was to individually hunt down and brutally attack the 'enemy' one at a time, leaving them to succumb to their wounds. While such brutality is disturbing, even shocking, Jane has also been witness to altruistic acts of kindness. For instance, she has observed two infants, orphaned by an epidemic of pneumonia, both adopted by unrelated adolescent males who had themselves lost their own mothers; one male allowed one of the adopted infants to not only share his bedding at night but to cling to him for warmth on cold and rainy nights.
(Source & quote:, 2010)

Jane with Uruhara, an orphan
Photo by Michael Neugebauer

Photos are from Institut Jane Goodall France
The above three images are courtesy of:

In 1977, Jane founded the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation with the focus on the power of the individual to protect the environment for all living things; it currently has nineteen offices around the globe. 

Jane Goodall has become more than a researcher; she's become an outspoken opponent of the usage of chimpanzees in medical research and an advocate for the humane treatment of  animals in medical and scientific research laboratories only when no other options exist. She also travels extensively on international speaking and lecture tours - she reportedly travels nearly 300 days a year - to bring attention to the plight of  wild chimpanzees and the dangers posed to their natural habitats, including the destructive trade in "bush meat." Her aim is to educate young people to better appreciate and to conserve the natural world around them while promoting the understanding that we all share the planet with other beings. (Source:, 2009)

Jane visiting with Billy Jo
Photo courtesy of Fauna Foundation
Image courtesy of: 

Jane Goodall has also written several authoritative books over the years about her experiences, observations, and insights into chimpanzee society (her 1986 book, The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior, for instance, has become the definitive book on chimpanzee behaviour and is the culmination of twenty-five years' worth of research and findings in Gombe). Her body of work and expertise form our core knowledge of social learning and behavioural conduct among chimpanzees. In fact, Jane Goodall's work has been instrumental in helping to redefine our concept of primates, particularly chimpanzees, as hominids. (Sources:, 2009;, 2010)

Image courtesy of: 

For her years of dedication and indefatigable efforts, Jane has been honoured with numerous awards in recognition of her life's work. These honours have included: the Medal of Tanzania, the National Geographic Society's Hubbard Medal, the Kyoto Prize of Japan, the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science, and the Gandhi/King Award for Nonviolence. More significantly, in 2002, Jane was appointed as a Messenger of Peace by the United Nations; in 2004, the title of Dame of the British Empire was conferred on her by Queen Elizabeth II. (Source:, 2009)

In 2002, in recognition of her life's work, Jane was named the U. N. Messenger of Peace

Jane with Pola, a 14-month baby chimp at the Budapest Zoo
The two images above are courtesy of:


Video courtesy of:  TheLeakeyFoundation ~ YouTube

Touched by Jou Jou
Photo by Michael Nichols from Brutal Kinship
Image courtesy of:

Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play.
Every individual makes a difference.

Recommended links & readings:

To learn more or to find out how you can help make a difference, please visit the following sites: 

The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behaviour (1986), by Jane Goodall: Belknap Press of University of Harvard Press

Chimps (1990), by Jane Goodall: Collins

My Life with the Chimpanzees (1996), by Jane Goodall: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

The Chimpanzee Family Book (1997), by by Jane Goodall & Michael Neugebauer: North-South Books

Through A Window: My Thirty Years With The Chimpanzees of Gombe (2000), by Jane Goodall: Houghtom Mifflin Harcourt

Reason for Hope: An Extraordinary Life (2000), by Jane Goodall & Philip Berman: Thorsons

Visions of Caliban: On Chimpanzees and People (2000), by Jane Goodall & Dale Peterson: University of Georgia Press

Chimpanzee Travels: On and Off the Road in Africa (2003), by Dale Peterson: University of Georgia Press

Chimpanzees (2004), by Karen Kane & Gerry Ellis: Lerner Publications

Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating (2006), by Jane Goodall, Gary McAvoy & Gail Hudson: Grand Central Publishing

Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man (2008), by Dale Peterson: Houghtom Mifflin Harcourt


No comments:

Post a Comment