About Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE

Founder, the Jane Goodall Institute, Ethologist & UN Messenger of Peace

In the summer of 1960, 26-year-old Jane Goodall arrived on the shore of Lake Tanganyika in East Africa to study the area’s wild chimpanzee population.
Although at the time it was unheard of for a woman to venture into the African wilderness, Jane persisted as the trip meant the fulfillment of her childhood dream.
Jane’s work in Tanzania would prove to be more successful than anyone could have possibly imagined.

Must We Redefine Man?

At first, the chimpanzees at Gombe Stream National Park fled whenever they noticed Jane. Then gradually they allowed her to come closer and closer. In October 1960 Jane observed two chimps, David Graybeard and Goliath, stripping leaves off twigs in order to make tools for fishing termites from a nest. This was truly a ground breaking moment for science as until that moment scientists thought that only humans were capable of making and using tools. In fact, humans were known as “man the tool maker”. This discovery lead to one of Jane’s many accolades “the woman who redefined man”.

“Now we must redefine tool, redefine man, or accept chimpanzees as humans.” – Professor Louis Leakey

Tool Use

In October, 1960, Jane Goodall found a chimp that she had named David Greybeard squatting on a termite mound. Not wanting to startle him, she stopped some distance away and could not see clearly what he was doing. From a distance, he seemed to be poking pieces of grass into the mound, then raising them to his mouth. When David had finished, Jane approached the mound. She inserted one of the abandoned grasses into a hole in the mound and found that the termites bit onto it with their jaws. David had been using the stem as a tool to “fish” for insects!

Soon after this discovery, Jane observed David and other chimps actually picking leafy twigs then stripping the leaves so that the twig was a suitable tool. This modification of an object to make a tool signifies the beginning of tool making. Until that time scientists thought that only humans used and made tools; our species was defined as “Man the Tool Maker.” When Jane’s research mentor Professor Louis Leakey received an excited telegram from Jane describing her discoveries he made his infamous response: “Now we must redefine tool, redefine Man, or accept chimpanzees as humans.”

Effect on Primatology

In 1965, Jane was awarded her Ph.D in Ethology from Cambridge University. Shortly afterwards she returned to Tanzania to continue her research and establish Gombe Stream Research Centre. Throughout many years at Gombe, she made multiple discoveries that radically changed and enriched the field of primatology:

  • Chimpanzees form lasting family relationships and support one another even if they are not related. In 1987 Jane observed adolescent Spindle ‘adopting’ three-year-old orphan Mel, even though the infant was not a close relative.
  • Chimpanzees engage in a primitive form of brutal “warfare.” In 1974, a ‘four-year war’ began at Gombe, the first record of long-term warfare in non-human primates. Members of the Kasakela group systematically killed members of the “Kahama” splinter group.
  • Chimpanzees have surprising courtship patterns. Males take females into consortships in remote areas for days to months.
  • Chimpanzees actively hunt and eat other animals. This evidence disproved previous theories that chimpanzees were primarily vegetarians and fruit eaters who only occasionally supplemented their diet with insects and small rodents.

The Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) and The Jane Goodall Institute Australia (JGIA)

In 1977, Dr Goodall realised that to best help her beloved chimpanzees, she would have to leave the forest. She founded The Jane Goodall Institute to provide ongoing support for field research on wild chimpanzees and fight to protect the habitat in which they live.

Today, there are JGI chapters in 35 countries around the world all working to support Dr Goodall’s vision and legacy. At JGIA we aim to “inspire actions that connect people with animals and our shared environment”. JGI is widely recognized for establishing innovative community-centered conservation and development programs in Africa and the Roots & Shoots education program in nearly 100 countries.

Dr Jane Goodall’s Honours

Dr Goodall’s many honours include: the Medal of Tanzania, the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Medal, Japan’s prestigious Kyoto Prize, the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research 2003, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science, and the Gandhi/King Award for Nonviolence. In April 2002, Secretary-General Annan named Dr Goodall a United Nations “Messenger of Peace.” Messengers help mobilize the public to become involved in work that makes the world a better place. They advocate in a variety of areas: poverty eradication, human rights, peace and conflict resolution, HIV/AIDS, disarmament, community development and environmentalism.

In 2003, Queen Elizabeth II named Dr Goodall a Dame of the British Empire, the equivalent of a knighthood. Dr Goodall has received honorary doctorates from numerous universities, including: Utrecht University, Holland; Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich; Stirling University, Scotland; Providence University, Taiwan; University of Guelph and Ryerson University in Canada; Buffalo University, Tufts University and others.

Dr Jane Goodall’s Publications

Dr Goodall has written many books including two overviews of her work at Gombe—In the Shadow of Man and Through a Window; two autobiographies in letters; and books based on her spirit of hope, Reasons for Hope, Hope for Animals and their World and Harvest for Hope. Her many children’s books include Grub: the Bush Baby, Chimpanzees I Love: Saving Their World and Ours and My Life with the Chimpanzees.

The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behaviour is recognised as the definitive work on chimpanzees and is the culmination of Jane Goodall’s scientific career. She has also been the subject of numerous television documentaries.

Today, Dr Goodall spends much of her time lecturing, sharing her message of hope for the future and encouraging young people to make a difference in their world.

Gombe National Park

In 1960, Jane Goodall arrived at the Gombe Stream Reserve in what was then Tanganyika. She was sent by Louis Leakey to study the behaviour of our closest living relative, the chimpanzee. In her early years at Gombe, Jane found that chimps share behaviours and emotions once thought to be unique to humans. Chimps make and use tools for a variety of purposes, are capable of cognitive reasoning and problem solving, and show emotions such as joy and sadness, fear and despair, love and empathy. They also display behaviours which indicate true altruism and have vivid personalities.

Jane was initially accompanied by her mother, Vanne (pronounced “Van”) Goodall, because the British authorities were so shocked at the thought of a young girl going to live with animals in the jungle. Initially they refused permission for such an ‘outrageous’ idea, but eventually agreed that she could go with a companion. Her mother volunteered – and made an invaluable contribution to the long-term project with her simple clinic (four poles and a roof) for the local fishermen. This project also helped to establish an excellent relationship with the local people.

It took many months before the chimps got over their initial fear of the strange white ape that appeared so suddenly. Eventually one adult male, whom Jane named David Greybeard, lost his fear. He even went to her camp to feast on oil palm nuts, and “stole” some bananas. Gradually his calm acceptance of Jane convinced the other chimps that she did not present a threat.

Throughout more than 55 years of continual observation, Jane and her fellow researchers and assistants have maintained a philosophy of noninterference (except for administrating medication to sick chimps) and building of trust. A great deal of behavioural and demographic data has been collected. Undergraduate students, graduate and postdoctoral researchers and field assistants have all contributed to the wealth of knowledge gained from this extraordinary long-term study.

Today the long-term monitoring of the Gombe chimpanzees and baboons is conducted by a highly skilled team of scientists and field assistants, from both Tanzania and abroad..

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