At any moment, the most likely place to find Jane Goodall is on an airplane. “Dr. Jane,” as many children call her, spends most of her time carrying her message of conservation and individual action all around the world. She travels an incredible amount of the time, giving lectures, visiting schools and community groups and meeting young people involved in her Roots&Shoots global youth program. She is not able to spend much time at the Gombe Stream Research Centre, site of almost 40 years of study on wild chimpanzees. The time Jane is able to spend there with the chimps is precious to her.
Dr. Jane is always publishing new books about her life and work with the chimpanzees. Other members of Dr. Jane’s research team also publish books and articles about their work at the Gombe Stream Research Center.
Dr. Jane spends her time traveling all over the world, all year long, to talk with adults and children about conservation and the ability we all have to make a difference. She values the hope, creativity, and energy of children, and takes their questions and input quite seriously. Dr. Jane often spends time meeting young people involved in her Roots&Shoots environmental education program to learn what they are doing for the environment, animals and their community.
Dr. Jane first traveled to Africa in 1960. She also has a home in Bournemouth, England.
When Dr. Jane was sent to Gombe, many people had doubts whether she would succeed. The risks in such a study were great. Would she be able to get close enough to the chimpanzees to make observations? Would the chimpanzees or some other wild animal attack her? What if she became sick? In fact, Jane spent many months without being able to observe the chimpanzees from nearby. But then she found a mountaintop, “the Peak,” where she could watch them through her binoculars. She would sometimes spend days on the Peak, bringing only some tins of food and coffee with her. She was patient, and took time to build up the chimps’ trust of her. When she observed chimpanzees making and using tools and eating meat, she knew others would see the importance of her work and that she would get the funding she needed to continue.
Dr. Jane was born in London, England, on April 3, 1934.
Dr. Jane was married twice. She was married first to Hugo van Lawick; however, they decided to divorce. Dr. Jane’s second husband Derek Bryceson died of cancer after they had been married only six years.
Dr. Jane has a son named Hugo Eric Louis; however, he is known as “Grub” to his family and friends. He lives in Tanzania in the little guest house next to Dr. Jane’s house on the shore of the Indian Ocean.
When she was young, Dr. Jane had a canine companion named Rusty. Rusty did not belong to Dr. Jane; he lived in a hotel around the corner. Dr. Jane used to take him for walks and play with him. Two dogs, Spoof and Mona Lisa, live with Dr. Jane at her present home in Tanzania.
Dr. Jane has a younger sister named Judy.
Jubilee is a life-like toy chimpanzee that Jane’s father gave her when she was just over a year old. Friends warned her parents that such a gift would cause nightmares for a child. But Dr. Jane loved the toy, and to this day Jubilee sits on a chair in her home in England.
From childhood, Dr. Jane wanted to go to Africa to live among animals and write about them. Her family was not wealthy, and Dr. Jane’s dream was an unconventional one for a girl at that time. But Dr. Jane’s mother always told her that if she tried hard enough and believed in herself, she would find a way. In 1956, a close friend named Marie-Claud (know as ‘Clo’) Mange invited her to Kenya. To earn money for her fare to and from Africa, Dr. Jane quit her job, moved back home and became a waitress. That summer she “worked herself to the bone.” Finally, in 1957, Dr. Jane embarked on her ocean voyage to Kenya. Once there, she met famed anthropologist and archeologist Louis S.B. Leakey. He hired Jane as an assistant/secretary, and eventually asked if she would be interested in studying a group of wild chimpanzees in Tanzania.
At first, British authorities resisted the idea of a young woman living among wild animals in Africa. But they finally agreed to Louis Leakey’s proposal when Dr. Jane’s mother, Vanne, volunteered to accompany her for several months.
As you might have guessed, Dr. Jane loves all animals, but chimpanzees will always hold a special place in her heart.
Dr. Jane was 26 years old when she arrived on Lake Tanganyika in East Africa to study the area’s chimpanzee population.
David Greybeard is among Dr. Jane’s favorite chimpanzees. He was the first chimpanzee to trust Dr. Jane enough to approach her. He was also one of the chimpanzees Jane first observed making and using a tool to “fish” for termites.
Dr. Jane mostly observes the chimpanzees. But sometimes she and the other scientists have to communicate a message — for example, that they are not threats. They will do this by avoiding direct eye contact with the chimpanzees and having a submissive posture (such as a crouch).
At the turn of the century, at least 1 or possibly closer to 2 million chimpanzees were in 25 countries across West and Central Africa. Now, they number somewhere between 172,000 and 300,000 in all of Africa. Habitat loss, bushmeat hunting and poaching for infants are the three major causes for the decline of chimpanzees in the wild.
Chimpanzees drink water. They eat fruits, nuts, seeds, blossoms, leaves and insects. Dr. Jane discovered that chimpanzees also eat the meat of smaller mammals. Before Dr. Jane’s discovery, chimpanzees were believed to be primarily vegetarians.
One of the biggest differences is that most monkey species have tails, whereas chimpanzees and other apes do not. Chimpanzees and other apes are much more similar to human beings in many respects. For more information, click here.
Dr. Jane discovered that chimpanzees do fight. Chimpanzees even engage in a primitive form of brutal “warfare.” In early 1974, a four-year war began at Gombe, the first record of long-term warfare in nonhuman primates.
In general chimpanzees do not like to swim. Chimpanzees have stocky bodies that prevent them from being strong swimmers. Many chimpanzees, however, enjoy splashing around and playing in water.
We all have heard a year in a dog’s life is equal to seven years in a human’s life. This is not true for chimpanzees. Chimpanzees are like us humans in so many ways, including how they age. In the wild, chimps can live to be 50 years old, while those in captivity can reach their sixties.
Africa’s oldest known chimpanzee, Gregoire, celebrated his 60th birthday in 2004! Gregoire, who was rescued in 1997 from terrible conditions at the Brazzaville Zoo, lives a life of peace, relaxation and fun at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpunga Sanctuary in Africa. Dr. Goodall visited Gregoire on his special day, presenting him with a box full of oranges. He even had a birthday cake which he happily shared with the other chimps at the sanctuary. Gregoire died in his sleep in 2008.
Photo credit: (hero image) Tanya Pérez Echeverría/ JGI Belgium