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Then & Now: Jane Goodall

Then: Goodall reseached chimpanzees in the 1960's.



Jane Goodall
Environmental Issues

(CNN) -- She began her career with no academic credentials, but decades later, Jane Goodall has evolved into a world-renowned primatologist who teaches young people about environmental protection.

"My mission is to create a world where we can live in harmony with nature," said Goodall, who gained fame for her groundbreaking work with chimpanzees in Tanzania in the early 1960s.

"And can I do that alone? No. So there is a whole army of youth that can do it. So I suppose my mission is to reach as many of those young people as I can through my own efforts."

One of those efforts is the "Roots and Shoots" program, created by Goodall to educate children on ways to improve the world around them and the quality of life for animals and people. Branches of the program, now in 87 countries, reach out to all ages, from preschoolers to university students and beyond.

"I came up with 'Roots and Shoots' when I was traveling around the world in increasingly broader circles talking about the environmental issues and challenges facing Africa," said Goodall, who was married twice and has an adult son, Hugo.

"As I traveled, talking about these issues, I met so many young people who had lost hope. Some were depressed; some were apathetic; some were angry and violent. And when I talked to them, they all more or less felt this way because we had compromised their future and the world of tomorrow was not going to sustain their great-grandchildren."

Discovering the African jungle

Goodall's dream of working with animals began as a youngster in Bournemouth, England.

"When I was a child, I found books about Dr. Dolittle and then about Tarzan," she said. "Tarzan, with whom I fell desperately in love and was really jealous of that wimpy Jane ... attracted me to Africa. Africa became my dream."

That dream came true in the summer of 1960, when, at 26, she traveled to Kenya at a friend's behest to "live with the animals and write books about them."

While in Kenya, Goodall met renowned anthropologist and paleontologist Louis Leakey, who suggested she begin a field study on the lifestyle of the wild chimpanzee. Her research required that she venture into what was considered territory too dangerous for a woman, specifically the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania.

Researching chimpanzees in Tanzania

Hardships abounded, such as the difficulty of even getting close enough to study the chimpanzees at Gombe Stream National Park -- they ran away whenever she tried to approach. She eventually earned the animals' tolerance by leaving bananas in a central location and observing from a distance.

The first major breakthrough came when she saw a chimp she'd named David Greybeard eating a baby bush pig, proving the animals weren't herbivores, as long had been believed. In October 1960, she observed David Greybeard and another chimp she had named Goliath fashioning tools to hunt.

"I have always felt that there is this great spiritual power," she said. "I think all the long years on my own in the forest with the chimpanzees you feel very close to that spiritual power."

Eventually, the chimps allowed Goodall into their world.

"The chimps had never seen a white ape before, and for five months they fled every time they saw me," she said. "But then on this one day, this female, Flo, allowed her infant, Flint, to actually approach and reach out and touch me. She kept her hand around me, but she had the trust to allow him to make that contact. And that was just an unforgettable moment."

Leakey sponsored Goodall's work and helped her get into Cambridge University so she could get a doctorate and gain acceptance.

Goodall entered Cambridge in 1965, she became only the ninth person to earn a doctorate (in ethology) from the university without first gaining a bachelor's degree. She did so despite sharp criticism from those who felt her work was unprofessional because she named her subjects instead of using the accepted method of numbers.

"You can imagine my dismay when I got to Cambridge and found that I had done everything wrong," she said. "I shouldn't have named the chimps; I should have given them numbers. I couldn't talk about their personalities, their minds or their feelings because that was unique to us."

She returned to Gombe and in 1967 became director of research for the Gombe Stream Research Centre, a position she still holds.

Goodall's observations opened up chimpanzee behavior to the world and drew parallels to human behavior, including individual personalities, family relationships and their own form of warfare. By proving the two species could co-exist, Goodall put herself in a position as liaison into the chimpanzee world, which became important in the mid-1980s when the animals' numbers began to dwindle noticeably.

Giving back to the community

In 1977, she opened the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation in Silver Spring, Maryland, and implemented the Chimpanzee Guardian Project to protect chimpanzees as they have become endangered in Gombe.

Goodall, a grandmother of three who turns 71 in April, has yet to slow down. She is on the road lecturing some 300 days a year, determined to groom the next generation of environmental activists through her "Roots and Shoots" program.

Goodall has received countless honors, including the humanitarian Albert Schweitzer Award (1987) and the prestigious Kyoto Prize for Science (1990), and she has been named a Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II and a U.N. messenger of peace.

She's written numerous articles for National Geographic magazine and has authored several books, including "In the Shadow of Man," "Through a Window," her best-selling memoir "Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey" and "The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior," as well as children's books.

Despite all the knowledge she has uncovered, she said her greatest goal is inspiring hope in the next generation.

"I've got three little grandchildren," said Goodall, who has homes in Bournemouth as well as Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. "When I look at them and I think how we have damaged this planet since I was their age, I feel a real anguish.

"So this is my effort to bring back the hope that we must have if we are to change direction. . . . I think to be fully human, we need to have meaning in our lives, and that's what I am trying to help these young people to find."

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