On the 20th of May this year, Dr Jane Goodall has been awarded the prestigious 2021 Templeton Prize, one of the greatest individual lifetime achievement awards, worth over $1,5 million. As the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace, world renowned ethologist and conservationist, Jane has, at the age of 87, received recognition for her groundbreaking discoveries and her role as a beacon of hope for a better world. Jane has changed our view on animal intelligence and enriched our understanding of who we, humans, really are.
The Templeton Prize is awarded each year to an individual who has harnessed the power of the sciences to explore the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it. The award places Jane next to world famous laureates such as the Dalai Lama (2012) and Desmond Tutu (2013), people who moved mountains by taking action in a peaceful way. Unlike Jane’s past awards, which mainly focused on her investigations on animal behavior, the Templeton Prize celebrates both her scientific and spiritual curiosity, going beyond the traditional parameters of scientific research. The Prize rewards her unrelenting effort to connect humanity to a greater purpose and is the largest single award that Jane has ever received.
Jane Goodall started her life-long career at the age of 26, when she started studying wild chimpanzees in the tropical forests of Gombe in Tanzania, after having assisted anthropologist Dr Louis Leakey in his excavations in the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania. In those years, the general understanding was that humans stand above, and outside, the world of animals. The idea that we are related to animals, and that our behavior is similar to theirs, made many people feel uncomfortable. Jane has completely changed that perception. She observed how chimpanzees, our closest relatives, show an array of emotions as wide as that of humans. They feel and exhibit joy, playfulness, sorrow, worry, affection, empathy, etc. Furthermore, she observed how chimpanzees use tools, prompting scientist to change the definition of Homo sapiens. Jane has indeed caused a revolution in the way we see ourselves: as a part of the natural world.
Through all her actions, Jane leaves us an enormous legacy of six decades spent transforming ethology and primatology, environmental awareness, animal welfare and conservation, through her innovative approaches. She has rightfully become a global icon and her work and qualities exemplify the kind of humility, spiritual curiosity, and discovery that philanthropist Sir John Templeton, the founder of the Prize, wrote and spoke about during his life.
Team Jane Belgium is beyond proud that our founder received this prestigious price and congratulate her with this achievement! We hope this award will lead to increased awareness on Jane’s activities and that more people will share her message of hope, to follow in her footsteps towards a better world for all creatures on Earth.
Text credit: Kathelijne Bonne