An interview with Jane Goodall
An interview with Jane Goodall
The famous primatologist speaks to Sian Griffiths about hens, chimps and the strong human spirit.
What is your earliest memory?
One of my earliest memories is watching a hen laying an egg. I went into an empty hen house and waited for four hours – at age four!
This shows how amazing my mother was. No-one knew where I was, but when everyone else was worried and looking for me, she was happy that I was excited. She didn’t say ‘Why did you go off without telling us! You mustn’t do that again!’ – that would have killed my excitement. She saw my shining eyes and sat down for me to tell her how a hen lays an egg…
All my childhood I was watching animals.
The strong human spirit is a great reason for hope. The Jane Goodall Institute.
When was your first experience interacting with a chimpanzee?
I try not to interact with them. The goal is to watch them, to observe them, to be a part of the environment, not a part of their society.
Of course, the young ones came to touch us. David Greybeard [Goodall gave names to the chimpanzees she observed, not numbers like normal scientific practice] did once when I held out fruit to him. He didn’t want it. But finally, he took it; then he dropped it, and then he very gently held my hand. Then, in 1963, a chimpanzee, who had been so afraid of me, trusted me so much - that was amazing.
Did you have a life-changing moment?
The biggest life change for me was at a conference in 1986 when I realized that, all across Africa, chimps were disappearing. This was the first time all the people studying chimps met together. A conference session on conditions in medical research labs was so shocking.
By then, I had a wonderful life. I was going out with the animals doing analysis – my childhood dream. But I left [the conference] an activist. Since then I haven’t stayed more than three weeks in any one place.
Can you tell us about your latest project?
Our youth programme, Roots and Shoots [where young people identify problems in their communities and take action to create a better environment] is now in 130 countries. One very important programme is Takare [a project based outside Kigoma in Tanzania], which is improving the lives of the people living around wild areas.
What is your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is that we will fail to create enough young people who understand that, we need money to live, but we shouldn’t be living for money.
What has been your biggest happiness?
My own child was a great joy. The biggest joy with the chimps is watching child development and family relationships – I just love that part of it.
What are you most proud of?
That I started Roots and Shoots and helped people to understand the real nature of animals.
What gives you hope?
First, groups of young people with shining eyes who want to tell ‘Dr Jane’ what they have been doing to make the world a better place for animals, people and the environment.
And then, the animals rescued from extinction. My favourite story was from New Zealand, where there was a little bird called a black robin. There were only seven birds left… only two females. One of the females was infertile and the other had an infertile mate. Doesn’t that seem like the end? Would you give up? But this biologist said, ‘No. I’m not giving up!’ There are now 500 of them – because of him! The strong human spirit is a great reason for hope.
For more information, see: janegoodall.org
As this article has been simplified, the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed. For the original, please see: http://newint.org/columns/finally/2012/07/01/jane-goodall-interview/