Jane Goodall born April 3, 1934 – redefined what it means to be human

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 www.KRNN.org, 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.

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 December 1958, Jane returned home to England and Leakey began to make arrangements for the expedition, securing the appropriate permissions from the government and raising funds.. In May 1960, Jane learned that Leakey had obtained funding from the Wilkie Brothers Foundation. Permits in hand, she boarded a plane to Nairobi.

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.”

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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