Jane Goodall

The renowned primatologist speaks of her fascinating life among big apes and her India plans
Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall

OT You started&nbspthe Jane Goodall Institute in 1977. What&nbsphas been the focus of the institute&rsquos work over the years

Jane Goodall The focus of the institute has definitely been the protection of chimpanzees and other primate habitats. We&rsquove got three programmes as parts of this effort the Roots and Shoots programme which is involved in education and spreading awareness among young people, the chimpanzee research programme in Africa which is now in its 46th year, and then we&rsquove got a programme called TACARE which works in participatory conservation of different species. This programme tries to involve local people in conservation efforts, improving their lives, and in the process protecting species like hyenas and baboons. We&rsquore also trying to set up a Jane Goodall Institute in India. I visited China last year, and we&rsquove already got three institutes there. Roots and Shoots has groups in Goa and Chennai. We&rsquore trying to take it to other parts of the country, too.

OT What is it that you find most endearing about chimps and what do you like least about them

Jane Goodall Chimps share&nbspso many characteristics with us &mdash they hold hands, they kiss, they have personalities. But their most &lsquohuman&rsquo characteristic is child rearing. Chimp mothers, like human mothers, can be good mothers and bad mothers, and much like human mothers they learn as the baby grows. And what I like the least &mdash the fact that males fight for dominance (smiles) they, like humans, have a dark side &mdash war, violence. However, only humans are capable of premeditated evil &mdash and the highest altruism.

OT You&rsquove travelled extensively all over the world

Jane Goodall Which are some of the areas you&rsquove really enjoyed working in One of my favourite trips was to&nbspthe Goualougo Triangle in Congo &mdash we&nbspspent many days walking through the swamps among gorillas and chimpanzees. I also loved my trip to Yellowstone &mdash that&rsquos the first time I saw bears. Another trip I did in the US a couple of months ago was fantastic &mdash it was part of a project to teach a flock of captive-bred whooping cranes a new migration route. So I went up in a micro-light dressed as a crane, and had a whole flock of cranes flying besides me. It was beautiful. 

OT Did N&rsquokisi the talking African grey parrot actually say &ldquoGot a chimp&rdquo when he saw you

Jane Goodall Indeed he did, the cognitive abilities of animals are quite amazing. When I started working with chimps, animals were not credited with having personalities, intelligence or the ability to feel emotion. At least that&rsquos what scientists claimed. But my childhood teacher &mdash my dog Rusty &mdash had taught me otherwise. And over the course of my studies it became apparent that chimps did have personalities. They could use tools, understand sign language, etc. Today we&rsquore realising that even birds have tool-related cognitive abilities. It might be inconvenient to us as human beings to think that animals and birds have personalities and qualities, but they do.

OT Do you still do active research

Jane Goodall No, I was lucky to live a dream for many years. When I started out I lived an average of six months of the year in the forests. Now I spend most of my time travelling and campaigning for conservation all over the world. A new generation of researchers continues the work I started. 

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