It’s been over 50 years since Dr. Jane Goodall first set foot on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, in what is now Tanzania’s Gombe National Park. The chimpanzee behavioral research Dr. Goodall pioneered there has produced a wealth of scientific discovery, and her work has evolved into a global mission to “empower people to make a difference for all living things.” The 77-year-old world-renowned primatologist and UN Messenger of Peace also has an inspiring new book out, Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink and her own organizations, the Jane Goodall Institute and Roots & Shoots, which aims to empower and educate youth.
In 2010, Jane’s 50th anniversary of her arrival in Gombe, I had the opportunity to talk to the legendary naturalist, who was in a reflective mood, sharing openly her wisdom and insights.
Marianne Schnall: This year marks the 50th anniversary of your arrival in Gombe, Tanzania, and all that has resulted from your groundbreaking research on chimpanzees, which is now one of the longest running studies of a wild animal species. How do you feel about this anniversary?
Jane Goodall: Well, it’s very extraordinary to me to think that half a century has passed, that we’re still studying the same community, that we’re still learning new things, that students who’ve have been through Gombe have now gotten university positions all over the world, and that it’s impacted probably thousands of people by now, not just the foreign visitors coming in, but Tanzanians as well.
MS: How do you think your vision and mission has expanded since then?
JG: Well, enormously. It was just concerned with learning about the behavior of one group of chimps, then realizing that chimps across Africa were becoming extinct, then traveling around Africa and talking about conservation. And then realizing how many problems in Africa are due and left over from colonialism and the continued exploitation of Africa’s resources. So traveling in Europe and Asia and North America and realizing how many young people have lost hope, and so starting the program for young people, Roots & Shoots, which now in 120 countries. And that involves young people from preschool right through university. So I don’t know how many active groups there are, but it’s pretty amazing.
Next: Jane Goodall’s message about hope and our connection to animals