“If you want somebody to change their mind,
it’s no good in arguing,
you have to reach the heart.“
I first learned about Jane Goodall back in the 1970s through a National Geographic television show. At the time, the 26-year young woman was making a name for herself with what would become a 60-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees.
Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall was born in Hampstead, London, on April 3, 1934 and grew up as a very shy child. At a year old, her father gave her a stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee. She has said her fondness for Jubilee started her early love of animals. Then on her seventh birthday, she received a book that would forever change her life, the book was Doctor Doolittle. The drawings in the book of chimpanzees inspired her to pursue a life as a primatologist and anthropologist. If not for this book and its drawings, her fascination with chimpanzees might never have inspired her to travel to Africa at age 26 and study the life and habits of these primates.
At one point in Jane’s life she had considered studying fossils and becoming a paleontologist. But that career had to do with dead animals. She wanted to work with living animals. Her childhood dream was as strong as ever: “Somehow I must find a way to watch free, wild animals living their own, undisturbed lives. I wanted to learn things that no one else knew, uncover secrets through patient observation. I wanted to come as close to talking to animals as I could, to be like Doctor Doolittle. I wanted to move among them without fear, like Tarzan.”
When Goodall first went to Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania, Africa in 1960, she was the first woman in the study of primatology, a male-dominated field at the time. She is quoted as saying, “. . . women were not accepted in the field when I started my research in the late 1950s.” She was also the first female scientist to record and understand the communication and life of the chimpanzee.
Through her lifelong dedication and knowledge, she has educated and enlightened the world about chimpanzees. On numerous occasions she has saved the lives of young and old chimpanzees. She has reached out politically through her organizations to raise awareness and funding for further research of chimpanzees.
By 1977, thanks to Goodall’s hard work and renowned research she established the Jane Goodall Institute, which supports her Gombe research. She is a global leader in the effort to protect chimpanzees and their habitats. “Chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans have been living for hundreds of thousands of years in their forest, living fantastic lives, never overpopulating, never destroying the forest. I would say that they have been in a way more successful than us as far as being in harmony with the environment.”
Goodall’s tenacity, love and respect for not only chimpanzees but the environment has made a huge impact on the killing of chimpanzees in the 1970s and 1980s. She has always believed that everything on Earth is interconnected. Goodall has advocated that every day on this earth we make choices that not only impact ourselves but our planet. By making daily small changes to our lifestyle, we stop destroying not only wildlife but our future. “I think my message to the politicians who have within their power the ability to make change is, ‘Do you really, really not care about the future of your great-grandchildren? Because if we let the world continue to be destroyed the way we are now, what’s the world going to be like for your great-grandchildren?’
During the last six decades, her groundbreaking work, has evolved into a personal quest. To empower others to make the world a better place for all living things. She travels the world tirelessly lecturing and spreading her knowledge of our closest relative, the chimpanzee. “You cannot share your life with a dog, or a cat, and not know perfectly well that animals have personalities and minds and feelings.”
Goodall has become synonymous as the leader in researching primates as well as conservation issues throughout the world. If you ask me, Jane Goodall is the Mother Theresa of all creatures big and small. If you ask her, she humbly replies that she feels like she’s been chosen as a worldwide messenger.