Redefined what it means to be human – Jane Goodall but enjoy April 3, 1934

JANE GOODALL: Ethologist and conservationist born April 3, 1934, redefined what it means to be human through her work with chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. It will be a wild playlist from John on Crosscurrents Monday April 3 at 8:00 AM. Listen live at, 102.7fm, or 103.1fm.

Ethologist and conservationist Jane Goodall redefined what it means to be human and set the standard for how behavioral studies are conducted through her work with wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania.

At 26, Jane followed her passion for wildlife and Africa to Gombe, Tanzania. There, under the mentorship of paleoanthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey, she began her landmark study of wild chimpanzees. Her revelatory observation that chimpanzees make and use tools rocked the scientific landscape and forever redefined our understanding of the relationship between humans and other animals.

Jane’s work builds on innovative science, growing a lifetime of advocacy particularly through her global organization the Jane Goodall Institute, founded in 1977. Her trailblazing efforts advance community-led conservation through JGI’s Tacare approach which empowers local communities to own the process of sustainable development and conservation, and through Roots & Shoots, JGI’s international youth program which supports young people in more than 60 countries to create positive change in their communities.

Today, Jane continues to connect with worldwide audiences, despite the challenges of the pandemic, through ‘Virtual Jane’ including remote lectures, recordings, and her podcast, the “Jane Goodall Hopecast.” In 2021, Jane was the recipient of the Templeton Prize, and published her newest book, “The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times.”

Jane is truly a global icon spreading hope and turning it into meaningful positive impact to create a better world for people, other animals, and the planet we share.

When Jane Goodall entered the forest of Gombe, the world knew very little about chimpanzees, and even less about their unique genetic kinship to humans. She took an unorthodox approach in her field research, immersing herself in their habitat and their lives to experience their complex society as a neighbor rather than a distant observer and coming to understand them not only as a species, but also as individuals with emotions and long-term bonds. Dr. Jane Goodall’s discovery in 1960 that chimpanzees make and use tools is considered one of the greatest achievements of twentieth-century scholarship. Her field research at Gombe transformed our understanding of chimpanzees and redefined the relationship between humans and animals in ways that continue to emanate around the world.

In March 1957 Jane boarded a ship called the Kenya Castle to visit her friend and her family. There, Jane met famed paleoanthropologist Dr. Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey, who offered her a job at the local natural history museum. She worked there for a time before Leakey decided to send her to the Gombe Stream Game Reserve (what is today Gombe Stream National Park) in Tanzania to study wild chimpanzees. He felt her passion for and knowledge of animals and nature, high energy, and fortitude made her a great candidate to study the chimpanzees. Leakey felt that Jane’s lack of formal academic training was advantageous because she would not be biased by traditional thought and could study chimpanzees with an open mind.

On July 14, 1960, Jane arrived by boat at the Gombe Stream Game Reserve on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika with her mother−local officials would not allow Jane to stay at Gombe without an escort−and a cook, Dominic.

Finally, an older chimpanzee−whom Jane named David Greybeard, although the practice of naming one’s study subjects was taboo in ethology−began to allow Jane to watch him. As a high ranking male of the chimpanzee community, his acceptance meant other group members also allowed Jane to observe. It was David Greybeard whom Jane first witnessed using tools. She spotted the chimpanzee sticking blades of stiff grass into termite holes to extract termites. Excited, she telegraphed Dr. Leakey about her groundbreaking observation. He wrote back, “Now we must redefine ‘tool,’ redefine ‘man,’ or accept chimpanzees as humans.”

During the years she studied at Gombe Stream National Park, she made three observations that challenged conventional scientific ideas: (1) chimps are omnivores, not herbivores and even hunt for meat; (2) chimps use tools; and (3) chimps make their tools (a trait previously used to define humans). Beyond the significance of her discoveries, it was Jane’s high standard for methods and ethics in behavioral studies may have had the greatest impact in the scientific community.

Her first mission was to improve the conditions for chimpanzees held at medical research facilities. Jane helped set up several refuges for chimps freed from these facilities or those orphaned by the bushmeat trade. She met with anyone she felt could be key to protecting places like Gombe Stream National Park and species such as her beloved chimpanzees and has been an advocate for protecting animals, spreading peace, and living in harmony with the environment.

Jane is still hard at work today raising awareness and money to protect the chimpanzees, their habitats, and the planet we all share. She travels about 300 days a year giving speeches, talking to government officials and business people around the world encouraging them to support wildlife conservation and protect critical habitats.

SOURCE: National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society

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