Jane Goodall

From her September 18, 2002 speech in Laguna Beach, California

"I had a wonderful supportive mother. She encouraged me to follow my ridiculous dream to go to Africa and live with animals because I was in love with Tarzan and very jealous of Tarzan's Jane. Everyone else laughed at me but she said 'Jane, if you really want something, you work hard, take advantage of opportunity, and never give up. You will find a way.'
"I was fortunate enough to meet the late Louis Leakey, who gave me this amazing chance to go and try to find out about the Wild Chimpanzees, our closest living relatives in the animal world.
"That study began in the 60s and is now in it's 43rd year. When I go back there, I see some chimpanzees that I knew in the sixties, and one individual, her name is Fifi. She was a little baby when I arrived in 1960 and she's about 43 years old now, she's the matriarch of her community. She's had a very successful reproductive career. When I go there and I look into her eyes, this grand old lady, I think 'this is my oldest chimpanzee friend, and she and I share certain memories of those early 60s that no other being in the world shares because they're not there any more.' And when I look into those eyes, I know I'm looking into the eyes of a thinking, feeling being. But I'll never know what she thinks about me. It's always a mystery, there's always something to learn. We haven't finished learning about this one amazing population of chimpanzees.
"When I first went to Cambridge University to get my Ph.D., I was greeted with almost hostility by my colleagues there: by the professors and by my fellow students. They were all busy studying animal behavior in the lab. Lots of them were sticking electrodes into animals' heads. They were doing other, rather unpleasant things like cutting out the ovaries of animals, like deafening chickens, like blinding kittens to 'find out how they worked.' And I was told, first of all, I shouldn't have named the chimpanzees, I should have given them numbers; it was more scientific. I couldn't talk about their personalities; only humans had personalities. I certainly couldn't talk about them having minds capable of rational thought, even though it was demonstrated, as Ken said, that they used and even made tools, ripping leaves off twigs and using objects in many different ways. But only humans had minds capable of rational thought. Worst of all was talking about animals having emotions; that was, absolutely, the domain of our own species. Animals couldn't feel happy or sad, they couldn't feel fearful or filled with despair.
Gradually, over the years since those early sixties, there has been a gradual change in science. There are still some pockets of resistance; there are still scientists who will not agree that animals have minds or personalities or feelings. Usually those are the ones who are conducting some invasive research. We still find people who think that mere animals don't have feelings. they're very often those people who are doing things like raising animals in intensive farms for consumption, and other ways, such as the hunters.
we owe a debt of gratitude to the chimpanzees, these amazing beings. It's almost as though when you've spent the time, like I have, with chimpanzees, and you know how much like us they are, you can imagine that where we used to think there was an unbridgeable chasm between us and the rest of the animal kingdom --at least Western science and to some extent Western religion felt that way--you can now imagine a chimpanzee walking towards you and he's reaching out over that supposedly unbridgeable chasm. And he's looking into your eyes and saying 'Don't I matter in your field of moral compassion?' and if you dare to look back into those eyes and take that hand, he's going to look back over his shoulder and say 'What about them? What about all these other amazing animals with whom we share this planet? Don't they matter too?'
Chimpanzees teach us some humility. They teach us so clearly that we are not the only beings with personalities, minds, and feelings. And that, you see, leads to this new respect. Not only for the chimpanzees, gorillas, and other great apes, for we, by the way, are a fifth great ape. We are simply an ape. It's not only the other apes that we have respect for, with their brains so like ours, their immune systems and their blood so like ours, it's also the other amazing animals with whom we share this planet, like the mountain lions."
It's very sad to find out that right across the world, animals are losing out. It's not just cougars, as you know, in africa 100 years ago there were maybe close to 2 million chimpanzees stretched right across 25 countries, across the Equatorial forest belt. Today at the very most--200,000. It's more likely to be 150,000 or less. and they're disappearing as their habitat relentlessly disappears under the encroaching, ever-growing human population, desperate to find food to grow their crops, to build their houses. Chimpanzees, like other animals, are disappearing as hungry people set out wide snares to catch food, [the chimpanzees] dying slow, lingering deaths.
"The greatest threat to the chimpanzees and all other animals of the Great Congo Basin, the central area of Africa, is what is known the 'bushmeat trade.' Commercial hunting for food. Not hunting to feed hungry people, not the sustainable hunting that people have practiced in many parts of the world for hundreds and hundreds of years living in harmony with the forest. No, this is a new kind of hunting and it's made possible in the Great Congo Basin because logging companies have gone in an made roads deep into the heart of the large forests. and now for the first time, there's a road, and there's transport. The hunters are going in from the towns and they camp at the end of that logging road. They shoot everything. Everything: elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, the little bonobo, monkeys, antelopes, even the larger birds and bats--all of them--they are shot and smoked. Now there's transport back into the town. And these dead bodies are loaded up along with the trunks of the trees and taken into the towns where the elite will pay more for this 'bush meat.' They prefer the taste so they pay more than they would for chicken or goat. It's absolutely not sustainable--the forests cannot stand this kind of raiding of the animal population. It's even worse, because deep in the heart of the forest are these great logging camps with maybe 2,000 people who weren't there before; the loggers and their families.
And the pygmy hunters who have lived in harmony for hundreds and hundreds of years with their forest world--they're given guns and they're given money and they're told to go and shoot for the logging camps. And that's not sustainable either. And, as is true in so many cases, we look at the plight of animals and find that its tied up so closely with the plight of the people. And that's true with the pygmies. When the logging camp moves, if they've practiced so-called sustainable logging, there will be forest left. But what will be in that forest? Nothing larger than little rats, tiny birds and lizards. So what will the pygmies do then? Their culture, their way of life, everything--destroyed, and very little left for them. This scenario is repeated again and again.
If we look at tragic Africa, and I love Africa, and I've spent so much of my life there we look across Africa, it's not just that the environment is being destroyed. We find that the droughts are getting worse and the flooding is getting worse, and we find that famine is creeping into so many places. We find desperate and dire poverty. We have places where there are far more people living then the land can possibly support. And these people are too poor to buy food from elsewhere. So, while on the one hand we have elite societies around the world living in luxury, having all they want to eat and drink. Not knowing cold, having shelter, having medical attention if they get sick.
Well, we may have children who are not facing starvation, but we're poisoning our children. We know that we are. We're polluting the air, the water, the land. And our children are getting sick. Childhood leukemia is increasing. Childhood diseases like asthma are much worse than they were before and its not only the children either. If we look at the whole global scene it can be so grim. Because with all these fossil fuels being burned, greenhouse gases accumulating, its been shown now (for a long time many scientists tried to disagree with it) but its been shown that our human effect is actually changing the global climate. And if you study what that means it's pretty grim. Already some people have lost there homes. there are some islands in the sea where people used to live. They can't live there any more. And other islands, incidentally, which have been so contaminated with nuclear testing people can't live there either. And we know, too that there are growing holes in the ozone layer so we're more susceptible to cancers from the sun. And it seems to be getting worse.
Today I'm traveling 300 days a year around the world. I went to a conference in 1986 that was a gathering of those studying chimpanzees right across Africa. They all talked about what was going on in their particular part of Africa, and it was the same everywhere. It was shocking to us to find that, right across Africa, there was this loss of habitat. We had a session on conditions in captivity and that was a shocking session. I remember it well--October 1986--looking at the conditions secretly filmed in some of the medical research laboratories. Chimpanzees in 5-foot-by-5-foot cages. I remember too, seeing some of the secretly-filmed footage, showing how entertainment chimpanzees are very cruelly treated in order to build a relationship based on fear because that is the only way to get them to be obedient.

Return to Jane Goodall page.

Page created on 10/16/2002 2:46:56 PM

Last edited 10/16/2002 2:46:56 PM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.