Adjust font size:
AS: CNN's Andrew Stevens
Hello, I am Andrew Stevens. Our guest today is eco-warrior Jane Goodall, a woman known around the world for her ground-breaking work on chimpanzees. This is Talk Asia.
Jane Goodall left her home in London to the wild Africa when she was just 26 years old driven by the love of and the fascination for animals.
Despite no formal training, her enthusiasm for the study of primates led to the key discovery that chimpanzees have abilities and personalities similar to humans.
Five decades on, and Dr. Goodall is now a tireless campaigner for conservation and environmental causes, especially the need to protect natural habitat.
AS: Dr. Jane Goodall, thank you so much for joining "Talk Asia" today to talk about your life, and your hopes. And before we get started, I think you need to introduce your friend, Mr. H (a stuffed monkey).
JG: Mr. H is my mascot. I've had him now for nearly 11 years. And the reason this strange little person comes with me -- and he is very famous by the way -- is because he was given to me by one of the inspirational people who give me hope for the future of mankind. A man called Garry Horn.
When he was 25 he went totally blind and he decided to become a magician and was told that this was impossible. "He said well, but I'll give it a try" and he is so good that children don't know he is blind. And at the end he will say: "things may go wrong in your life but you must never give up. There is always a way forward."
So, we have been in 57 countries and I tell people when they touch him some of the inspiration rubs off. So, he has probably being touched by some three million people.
AS: Inspirational monkey, indeed! Let's talk about conservation, first of all. You, more than anyone, over the past plus-40 years, have studied the habitat and the dwindling population of the primates. How optimistic are you that your children and your children's children will be able to see those animals in the wild?
JG: Well, I am pretty sure that the Gombe chimpanzees are going to be safe into the future, although we nearly lost them. The populations in the last real reservoir for the chimpanzees gorillas and many other primates, and other animals, is the Congo Basin. And there, the big problem is what's called the bushmeat trade, which is the commercial hunting of wild animals for food, very different from subsistence hunting.
AS So, there is a market for this?
JG: Yes. And its not just in Africa. A lot of bushmeat is shipped out of Africa. Not just Chimpanzees. I am talking about all wild animals. And it goes very often to African communities living in exile, but it's absolutely, totally, unsustainable. So, we have partnerships. We are trying to do something about this, but it's really difficult because there is a lot of money being made.
AS: Well, that is a very strong imperative for obviously that sort of industry, that sort of trade to continue. Is there hope that there can be some place, or places, that the populations of the primates can be sustained or do you think that it is quite likely you will only see them in Zoos, in very specific national parks?
JG: No. I honestly believe that we can save a lot of large wilderness areas in Africa. And the technique that we use in the Jane Goodall Institute is, we have a program called "Take care" T-A-C-A-R-E.
What we do is work to improve the lives of the people living around Gombe. There are more people living there than the land can support. Refugees have come pouring in. There is no where for them to go and they are really struggling to survive. But, our program now has been going for more than 10 years and it is introducing new farming methods, reclaiming over used farmland.
AS: This is all tied up with economics and making sure that people have enough money, so that they don't have to resort to these other measures. But in conflict zones, and Congo is a good example, how can you build those sorts of models around these sorts of countries?
JG: Well, we are building it. We have a TACARE program in Eastern Congo, Eastern DRC. It is a conflict zone. There is still, you know, a bit of danger from the militia. But we are working with the villages there. They, as in Gombe, are agreeing to leave a certain percentage of their land for the chimps, so that you can make corridors. And that's the only way to save some these animals who are in this fragmented patches of forest, whether its chimps or anything else.
AS: Are governments listening to you?
JG: Governments are listening, but the problem, right now, you know the first wave of logging, which opened up the forest was European after World War 2. The second wave is Asian, and particularly China, searching for raw materials to support its rapid economic growth. This is actually frightening, but enough people are aware, and enough people are tying to find solutions. That I really am confident that we shall be able to save enough wilderness areas to maintain the populations of chimps.
AS: You have spread your work, as you said, to Asia. What response do you get here?
JG: I have seen, well I started off in mainland China not really expecting that anybody would listen, but I promised to visit someone. And I was amazed. It was just about the time after the really bad floods 10 years ago, 9 years ago. And, the newspapers were all talking about the environment really for the fist time. And this program we have for young people, because you know, young people are inheriting a mess. And we need to support them and help them, and encourage and empower them. And it was the minister for environment who asked me to put this program into the Chinese schools.
JG: It's a program called "Roots & Shoots." "Roots" make a firm foundation, "Shoots" seem tiny, but to reach the sum they can break through a brick wall. We see the brick wall as all the problems that humans have inflicted on the planet environmental and social.
AS: So, it is awareness from the children, for the children?
JG: Yes, so, it's a message of hope. Hundreds of thousands of young people around the world can breakthrough and make this a better world. The main message: "every individual makes a difference every day. Your life actually does matter".
AS: Excuse me for perhaps being slightly skeptical, because you have economic interests, you have governments and vested interest. Let's take logging in Indonesia, where there are orangutans, for example.
JG: (They are) Destroying the forest.
AS: Destroying the forest. And that is a problem that is growing. And it is going to take almost like a generational change. Do we have that amount of time?
JG: We don't have a lot of time. But I was just in Australia, talking to the Australian government, about ways to sort of Band-aid solutions for the present, while thinking in longer terms for the future. And there are ways that one can make an impact and slow this down. Mainly, by working for sustainable oil palm plantations and banning the cutting down of new forests. And the Indonesia government is listening.
They are realizing that they've turned from a country that was exporting masses of raw materials, to a country that now has to import, because they have so destroyed their own non-renewable natural resources.
AS: You're watching "Talk Asia," our special guest today is Dr. Jane Goodall, campaigner, conservationist, primatologist, you name it. When we come back we are going to talk to her about how she got into this in the first place -- a fascinating story.
AS: Welcome back to Talk Asia. Our guest today is Dr. Jane Goodall. Dr. Goodall, how does a young English woman, with no formal training, be chosen by the eminent, the best known anthropologist of his time: Dr. Louis Leakey to lead a chimpanzee research in Tanzania. How does that happen?
JG: Isn't that unlikely? A little girl growing up in London in a family who could not even afford a bicycle, in World War II? But I always loved animals. And although everybody laugh at me, when I was 11 and said I am going to go to Africa and live with the animals and write books about them. My mother always used to say: "If you really want something, and you work hard and you take advantage of opportunity and you never give up, you find a way". So, left school, could not afford the university, did the secretarial training, because mom said: "maybe you can get a job in Africa". And heard about Dr. Louis Leakey and went to see him at the Natural History Museum and he gave me a job as a secretary. And I think he was amazed, because he asked me all this questions about the animals in the museum.
AS: At the age of 26, you packed your bags you went to the Gombe Stream, a national park, on the shores of a lake, in what was then Tanganika I believe. As I said, 26 years old, it must have been quite terrifying.
JG: Oh, no! It was exciting and a little daunting. I remember still going along in the boat and looking up, in those days, right the way from Kigoma, the nearest town. And there was forest coming down to the lake and very thick in the valleys. And I was looking at it and thinking: "How will I find the chimpanzees"? There was nobody really... Anyway, so, I still remember that first evening helping to get the camp up. I was there with my mother, because the authorities said I had to have a companion and she volunteered. She played such a role in my life!
AS: I was going to say, she sounds like an extraordinary figure in your life.
JG: She was, she was! You asked how that little girl got to Africa. It was to do with her. She really gave me that confidence.
AS: So, you are climbing up a hill...
JG: Yeah, the first night we've done the camp and I went out by myself. I heard baboons calling and smelt the smell, and the morning doves were calling. It was just, I mean, that was my dream. I couldn't really believe it was real.
AS: I read it and I've also seen on your documentary that you were there for two decades, more, and in those first few years you would go climb to the top of this hill, the same hill, everyday, sit in the same place and watch and wait. How long did it take for something to happen?
JG: The peak was a perfect vantage place in the middle of two communities. And, so, it was a place from which I could go and try to get closer. But the big problem was that the chimps were frightened of this weird white ape and they would vanish into the forest. Until one day, oh well after about four months, I suppose, this one male I named David Greybeard came to my camp and took some bananas. And I asked my Tanzanian cook to leave the bananas out for him. And then in the forest he would sometimes approach rather than run. And the others watched and probably thought 'well perhaps she is not so frightening after all.'
This is the 1960's you were living in Tanzania. What were the conditions like? I mean, just surviving must have been quite difficult.
JG: Very remote. Mom and I, she was there for four months then she went back, we shared a tent, we had a couple of tin mugs and plates. We had to take a cook because we were two English women alone and that wasn't allowed. So, we had Dominique, who cooked our very simple meals, mostly from tins and vegetables and fruits from the nearby little village. And it was very, very simple, but for me this was the dream.
AS: Did you know what you were looking for, when you were studying those chimps?
JG: Anything! I was there, you know, with my unbiased mind. I had no preconceived notions. It never occurred to me that chimps would not have personalities, minds and feelings.
So, basically, I went out with my little notebook and I would see a group of chimpanzees and I would describe them. I would note down what they did, and the times that they started and stopped doing various things and gradually the sort of chaos and behavior began to make sense, and the different individuals became known. So, this was the base to leap ahead and learn more, and more and more.
AS: I mean, one of the breakthroughs was watching one of the chimps stripping down a piece of branch and using it to put into a termite hole, to extract termites, fashioning a tool to use. That hadn't been observed before.
JG: No. That was David Greybeard, the same David Greybeard who personally let me go close. And the point was that, at that time we were defined as "Men the toolmaker". It was thought that differentiated us, more than anything from the other animals. And, so to see David using a tool and stripping off the leaves and making a tool and then the others doing the same, this was so magical... and I sent a telegram to Louis Leaky, who telegramed back: "now we must redefine man, or tool, or accept chimpanzees as humans". And the sad thing was that I had nobody to share this excitement with, not really.
AS: You mentioned in the documentary that at one stage you'd been watching the chimps for several years, you thought you understood them and then there was a turf war between two communities which was, sounds like a battle to the death. That totally shocked you.
JG: Yes it did. Partly because the chimpanzees who were being killed where at one time part of the same group. It was like a civil war. Having divided up the previously shared range, this small part that moved to the south, they were just taken one by one by one and left to die there from their wounds. And it was truly shocking, truly shocking.
AS: And through all this, watching all this, did you see close parallels with human communities?
JG: There is so much that is similar between chimpanzees and humans. I mean, we know today that the DNA of humans and chimps differs by only 1%. They are actually more like us, than they are like gorillas. And you can get a blood transfusion from a Chimpanzee. And the brain structure is the same, it is just smaller.
AS: And the social patters are quite similar.
JG: Yeah, communication: kissing, embracing, holding hands, patting on the back, same context as we do it. The long term supportive bonds between mothers and their offspring and between brothers and sisters.
AS: How do you think that they ended up regarding you? Because they were with you for so long, you were with them for so long.
JG: I don't know what they thought of me. I wasn't another chimpanzee. I wasn't like the baboons. I was, you know, a white ape.
AS: Do you think that you communicated with them at all?
JG: Well, I think I communicated in some way the lack of threat. I didn't try to communicate in any other way, but simply to understand how they communicated with each other. But you know, during these years, some of these chimpanzees were, you know, I felt so close to them. "Fifi" was a little baby, when I arrived in 1960 and two years ago she vanished. We know she is dead. And it's a very sad feeling that I go back to Gombe and I will never see her again.
AS: We are going to take a short break now, our special guest today is Dr. Jane Goodall. Find out after the break the tough decision she had to make to take her conservation campaign form Tanzania to the world.
AS: Welcome back. You are watching Talk Asia. Our guest today is Dr. Jane Goodall. So you were in Gombe for about 26 years, and you made the decision that you had to go on the road literally, to spread the word, to campaign about conservation. How big a decision was that to take?
JG: Well, in fact it began because there was a conference which brought together people studying chimpanzees from across Africa. And we had a session on conservation which was absolutely shocking. It showed, you know, how habitats were being destroyed, chimpanzees were being hunted. At the same time we had a session on bad conditions in captivity and medical research, circuses, entertainment and bad zoos.
And it was a bit like St. Paul on the road to Damascus. I mean, I didn't have a choice! I went as a scientist, planning to go on collecting data, and I came out as a chimpanzee advocate and from that moment on traveling around in Africa, talking to government officials and villagers and realizing that so many of Africa's problems were related to the unsustainable life-styles of many people in the developed world.
AS: That was in the 1980s, the mid-1980s. How would you compare the awareness of the issues then and now, how much progress has been made?
JG: The environmental degradation is causing so much suffering and people are becoming more and more aware. And I think the electronic communication is helping information to pass more quickly around the world and the Internet is enabling groups to communicate, who perhaps couldn't have done before. So, more and more people are aware of the issues. The problem is that often leads to this feeling of helplessness.
AS: And what do you tell people who say that to you? Because it is a valid point, isn't it "I am just one insignificant person?"
JG: Well, you may be one insignificant person, but your life matters and every day the things you do impact the world around you. And you get a choice as to all sorts of things: what will you buy? What will you eat? What will you wear? How will you get from A to B? And it may seem that the changes you make, once you are aware of the impact, are small, but if you imagine a thousand, then a million, then several million, then a billion people all making those changes in their own life-style this is going to make big change.
AS: You are on the road at least 300 days a year, and you have been for almost 20 years. There are some extraordinary figures there. How do you do it?
JG: Well, take it day by day! My grand-mother used to have a favorite text from the Bible which was: "As your day is, so shall your strength be." It is simply taking it day-by-day. I think the feedback from people, I mean, the number of people who come to a lecture and say 'you've made me feel my life is more valuable' the number of children around the world who write and say 'you taught me that because you did it I can do it too'; the number of people who come up and say 'you've really made a difference in my life, I am trying to do something for the planet everyday.' This is why I keep on this crazy schedule, because I know it is making an impact.
AS: So, by that, I take it you are not planning to stop anytime soon.
JG: Well, who knows what is going to happen? I may have to, but, not if my health continues as it is now, I am stronger and tougher than I was 30 years ago.
AS: Where do think we need to focus collectively, in the world? What, to you, is the area that most needs the awareness and the support?
JG: It is almost impossible to pin-point one area because everything is inter-related. But again, I come back to the importance of every individual's life and the choices they make. Here is a question that I ask people: "How is it that arguably the most intelligent beings that ever walked on this planet is destroying its only home?" You know, we need a new value system. What are we looking for in life? Are we looking for more and more money, more and more stuff? Or do we want a life that is really meaningful? That makes us feel good? That is the attitude that we are trying to foster in young people and then support them when they move out to the adult world.
AS: Dr. Goodall, thank you very much for joining us here at Talk Asia.
My special guest today was Dr. Jane Goodall, make sure you tune in again for Talk Asia next week.
Quick Job Search