Jane Goodall, Pioneer in Primatology, Delivers Presentation to Thousands

Over 1,200 members of the Andover community, and thousands more online, gathered for a chance to hear Jane Goodall – a primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and United Nations Messenger of Peace – speak in Cochran Chapel this past Friday.

Goodall, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and its youth program, Roots & Shoots, spoke about the importance of preserving the natural world and inspiring individual action to help people, animals, and the environment.

“We’re destroying the planet, and [this generation is] growing up into a planet which is being very seriously harmed. If we don’t act soon, it will be too late. For [the] future, that’s pretty grim. So I come and try and spread our program through Roots & Shoots as much as I possibly can. That’s why I come: to galvanize young people to roll up your sleeves and get out there and help us make the world a better place,” said Goodall in an interview with The Phillipian.

Goodall’s passion for environmentalism and zoology began at a young age. In her speech, Goodall recalled her fascination with the chickens on her grandmother’s farm and also credited her mother for encouraging her enthusiasm for learning.

“I began asking everybody, ‘Where does the egg come out of the hen?’… Nobody answered me to my satisfaction, [and so] what I do remember so vividly is seeing a hen, going up into her little sleeping house… and going into an empty hen house and waiting and waiting and waiting,” said Goodall in her presentation.

Meanwhile, her family had been worried as Goodall was nowhere in sight while she was watching the hen lay an egg, returning home well after sundown. Instead of getting angry at Goodall, her mother supported her curious nature and provided her with the necessary resources to support her interest.

“Isn’t that the making of a little scientist: the curiosity, asking questions, not getting the right answers, deciding to find out for yourself, making a mistake, not giving up, and learning patience? It was all there in that 4½-year-old little girl. And a different kind of mother might have crushed that scientific curiosity and I might not be standing here. She [even] decided that I would learn to read more quickly if she got books that were about animals,” said Goodall.

During her 55-year study of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania, Goodall initially had trouble bonding with the primates. Funds for her research were running low, and Goodall was worried that she would have to return to England before she had made any significant discoveries.

“Those were the early days that were very frustrating and worrying for me… The chimpanzees took one look at this peculiar white ape and ran away. They’ve never seen anything like this before, and they were very conservative. So I was really worried that the money would run out before I seen anything really exciting and that would be the end of the whole thing,” said Goodall in her presentation.

With support from her mother, she continued her research and eventually earned the trust of a male chimpanzee after he began to steal bananas from Goodall’s table who Goodall later named David Greybeard. After she had bonded with David Greybeard, she began to earn the trust of his family.

“Gradually [the chimpanzees] began to lose their fear, and gradually I came to know them as distinct individuals looking very different one from another. As the years passed, the understanding of chimpanzee behavior began to be easier. I can now look back 55 years [and] we still have family research station at Gombe, [and] we still have students working there – local Tanzanians, as well as those from overseas. And if I look back, the thing that is most striking is how [similar to] us they are,” said Goodall in her presentation.

In addition to her fieldwork and activism, Goodall has authored more than 20 books and has received over 70 awards for her research on primates. She has served on the board of the Nonhuman Rights Project since its foundation in 1996 and is currently an ambassador for Disneynature.

As a philanthropist, Goodall is inspired by the research and activism conducted by new generations of scientists and environmentalists. Goodall hopes Andover students will realize the difference they can make in preserving the world we live in.

“I think the most important message is that every single individual makes a difference every single day, and [for] you [to] start thinking about the consequences of what you buy, what you eat, what you wear, how you interact with people or the environment or animals. [It] may seem to you that, ‘It’s just me so it won’t make any difference,’ but in our Roots & Shoots program and other youth programs of a similar nature… you find that if everybody starts making ethical choices, you start leaning towards the kind of world that we hope to create or to restore,” said Goodall in an interview with The Phillipian.