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10 Reasons Why Everyone Should Love Jane Goodall

World famous primatologist Jane Goodall turns 80 on April 3rd and there’s no better time than now to reflect on Lady Jane’s incredible contributions not only to science, but to spreading her gentle goodwill around the world. She champions hope, peace, poverty alleviation and showing compassion for all the planet’s creatures by making wise decisions and using the main thing that separates us from chimpkind: our noggins.

“If all of us would go through our lives thinking about the little choices we make each day as to what we buy, what we eat, what we wear – and how those choices might impact the environment, might impact child slave labor in other countries, might impact cruelty towards animals, we start making small changes… Billions of small changes around the world can lead to the kind of change we need if we care about future generations.” – Jane Goodall

1. Jane – not Tarzan – discovered chimps make tools, wage war

Inspired by 1950’s Tarzan movies, Jane longed for Africa from childhood; by age 26, in 1960, the young Brit moved to Gombe Stream Game Reserve (now a National Park) in Tanzania to study wild chimpanzees – what a dream! That same year, Jane made a groundbreaking discovery that changed how we view humanity: she observed chimps modifying objects to use as tools. Anthropologist Louis Leakey famously telegrammed, “We must now redefine man, redefine tool, or accept chimpanzees as human!” Later, Jane observed chimp families waging war against other groups, savagely murdering one another, which saddened her. Yet, she says, only humans have the brainpower to recognize our behavior and change it.

Dr. Jane Goodall with Louis LeakeyImage Credit: The Jane Goodall Institute


2. Jane knew animals have feelings long before it was fashionable

Jane broke with the clinical scientific approach of the 1960s of numbering study animals. She came to know the Gombe chimps as friends and gave them names – David Greybeard, Flo, Figan. The oldest chimps there still recognize her! Jane’s childhood pup taught her that animals have feelings, and after spending half a lifetime observing chimps in the forest, watching them play, laugh, hug, mourn, and wage war, she knew they experience a far wider range of emotions than scientists previously recognized. “You can’t share your life in a meaningful way with an animal of any sort and not realize that we’re not the only being on the planet with personality, mind and above all feeling,” Goodall has said, “We’re not the only ones who can suffer physically and mentally.”

Happy birthday, Dr. Jane GoodallImage Credit: The Jane Goodall Institute


3. Jane is a vegetarian and her favorite animal is…

Does it surprise you that Jane’s favorite animal is not the chimpanzee but people’s best friend, the dog? A lifelong animal lover, she now fights for the welfare of captive animals, and recently urged Congress to phase out medical research on chimpanzees. The CHIMP Act was passed in late 2013, retiring 100 chimps though the National Institutes of Health kept 50 for research. Jane gave up eating animals after reading a book about the lives experienced by factory-farmed food animals. She has suggested that if people eat animal products they make sure they choose organic and free-range products, giving those animals the best lives possible.

Happy birthday, Dr. Jane GoodallImage Credit: The Jane Goodall Institute | Courtesy of the Goodall Family


4. Flying over the disappearing African forests radically changed Jane’s conservation approach

Viewing her beloved chimpanzee forest in Tanzania from a small plane in 1991, Jane was shocked. “Gombe was a patch of green surrounded by denuded hills.” She knew the local people were hungry, and they cut forests to grow food crops. “I became aware that we couldn’t even try to save the chimpanzees if we didn’t try to help the people,” she said at the 2013 Continuity Forum. The Jane Goodall Institute (JGI)’s pioneering community-based conservation methods align with the late Elinor Ostrom’s 2009 Nobel-winning theory that conserving forests and improving people’s lives are not mutually exclusive. Ostrom showed that empowering local people most invested in forests or other natural resources– in this case the African villagers – would result in the best outcomes for forests and people. Jane’s work embodies that theory on the ground.

Happy birthday, Dr. Jane GoodallImage Credit: Science Museum of Minnesota | The Jane Goodall Institute


5. Jane Goodall Institute projects show conservation can alleviate poverty

Rather than “parachuting in” and offering solutions, JGI staff asks local villagers their concerns, and they work together to find solutions. Starting in 1994, the Lake Tanganyika Catchment, Reforestation and Education (TACARE) program in Tanzania was an early pioneer of the community-based approach of restoring forest and ecosystem health while simultaneously reducing poverty. In Uganda, JGI’s “sustainable livelihoods” project is reconnecting two isolated forest patches where chimps live. Villagers said their main problems were lack of clean water and poverty, so they worked together to restore springs and rivers, and to create income-generating businesses including crops, trees, beehives, and Boer goats. This not only keeps locals from illegally harvesting honey and trees from protected forests, it’s reforesting a corridor that chimps may soon use.

Happy birthday, Dr. Jane GoodallImage Credit: The Jane Goodall Institute


6. Jane champions REDD+ - saving forests, helping people – but hopes the world embraces renewables

A big concern with the “Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation” (REDD+) mechanism for mitigating climate change is that it won’t benefit local people. Jane wants to show REDD+ can work with pilot projects in Africa. In Tanzania, JGI is protecting the Gombe-Masito-Ugalla ecosystem from degradation by training locals to monitor the FOREST’s health; incidentally one of Elinor Ostrom’s “design principles” is that having indigenous people or local citizens monitor forests best protects them. In Uganda, JGI is working with villagers to reforest their lands, and helping villagers secure land title, which allows them to earn money by selling credits on the global carbon market for planting trees. Even though JGI supports REDD+, Jane believes the most effective way to curb climate change is to switch to renewable energy.

Happy birthday, Dr. Jane GoodallImage Credit: Nick Riley | The Jane Goodall Institute


7. The Jane Goodall Institute believes technology can change the world!

Imagine local people around the world with tablets and smartphones that can record data on forest health, illegal tree harvest and poaching, along with photos and GPS (global positioning system) location. That scenario became closer to reality with the recent launch of the Global Forest Watch project; JGI is a major partner along with several other nonprofits. In Budongo Forest Reserve, where tourists track wild chimps, JGI just trained guides to use brand-new Android tablets, donated by Google, to collect data on their daily tracking adventures. These data get uploaded to the cloud where people around the world – including scientists, policymakers, and the media – will eventually be able to access them.

The Jane Goodall Institute is training local communities in the use of mobile technologies to monitor their forests.Image Credit: Lilian Pintea/the Jane Goodall Institute


8. Jane champions the non-conflict between science and faith

Not long after her second husband Derek died from cancer, she climbed the Gombe forest hills, witnessed a thunderstorm, and then had a life-changing transcendental experience. She describes the moment in her memoir A Reason for Hope, writing that although she rejected God after Derek’s death, in this moment she found “peace which passeth understanding” that would remain a source of strength during tough times for the rest of her life. She writes at length in the memoir about faith, including a story about her telling a bellhop that evolution does not conflict with the Bible, and how she believes chimps have a primitive spirituality, most evident in their amazing rain dances.

Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey, by Dr. Jane Goodall with Phillip BermanImage Credit: The Jane Goodall Institute


9. Jane’s Roots & Shoots programs help youth become conservation and peace ambassadors

In 1991, Jane started a program to educate and empower young people from preschool through college-aged in conservation and humanitarian efforts. Started with Tanzanian school kids, the program has spread around the world. Jane encourages chapters to tackle local conservation problems, again following in the paradigm-changing theories of Elinor Ostrom: solve local problems with local solutions and local people. With strong roots, tiny shoots can break through brick walls; Jane says, “hundreds of thousands of young people… all around the world can break through the brick walls and make this a better world for animals, for people, and for the environment.”

Jane's Roots & Shoots programs educate and empower young people from preschool through college-aged in conservation and humanitarian efforts.Image Credit: The Jane Goodall Institute


10. Jane is a global messenger of peace and hope – and so is her monkey “Mr. H”

The United Nations named Jane a UN Messenger of Peace in 2002 for her work spreading the message that "to achieve global peace, we must not only stop fighting each other, but also stop destroying the natural world." But her stuffed monkey mascot, Mr. H — given to her by Gary Haun, a man who lost his eyesight at 21, yet went on to become a magician, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, ski and jump from airplanes — is also a messenger of hope! Jane carries Mr. H everywhere. He has been touched by millions of people, because his “inspiration rubs off.” Gary’s message – embodied in Mr. H – is that, “Things might go wrong in your life, but don’t give up. There’s always a way forward.”

Happy birthday, Dr. Jane GoodallImage Credit: Robert Ratzer | The Jane Goodall Institute


About the Writer

Freelance writer Wendee Nicole traveled to Uganda in January under the Mongabay.orgSpecial Reporting Initiatives program, reporting on innovative approaches to tropical forest conservation. She went out in the field with Jane Goodall Institute scientists and tracked chimps at Budongo Forest Reserve.



Wendee Nicole, Freelance WriterImage Credit: Wendee Nicole


Support the Jane Goodall Institute's Thunderclap Campaign

Sign up to support the Jane Goodall Institute's Thunderclap campaign on April 3! At the beginning of her Google Hangout birthday party, help send Jane a great, big, EXTRAORDINARY birthday wish from across the globe to show how much we care about her! Let's all thank her for her dedication to conservation and the protecting the environment we all share.





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