By Ellin Iselin
Feature Special to The
"Ah, wah, wah, wah, wah," called Dr. Jane Goodall to
her audience. The chimpanzee researcher spoke to a capacity crowd of
5,000 people at the University of North Florida (Jacksonville) on
Feb. 29, 2000. While the social scientist already commanded the full
attention of her listeners, her imitation of a chimp calling to
others far away was nontheless a superb device.
gained worldwide fame for her work at the Gombe Stream Research
Center in Africa; which she established in 1965. But Goodall's
interest in African wildlife began well before that. The researcher
credits her mother with nuturing her love of animals and of
learning. Goodall tells the story of how she took a handful of worms
to bed with her as a child. Instead of scolding the youngster, her
mother bought little Jane books about animals. Among Goodall's
childhood favorites and inspirations was Dr. Doolittle.
1960, Goodall ventured to Lake Tangayika in Africa. It was there she
met Dr. Louis Leaky, renowned anthropologist. Leaky was looking for
links between chimpanzees and early humans. The scientist
recommended Goodall as a field assistant, but enough people frowned
upon a young woman venturing into the rain forest that it became
apparent that young Jane would have to be chaperoned. Again
Goodall's mother helped her daughter by accepting the job of
From Goodall's research have come remarkable
insights into the lives of our animal relatives. For instance, her
observations show the hierarchal structure of chimpanzee social
life. Males dominate and females develop their own separate
subculture. Does this mean males should dominate in humans? Goodall
very clearly makes a distinction between humans and chimpanzees and
we are undeniably held in higher standards. Goodall contrasts the
chimps' basic use of simple tools with the human capacity to use
"We've traveled to the moon,"Goodall
illustrates. Likewise the scientist demonstrates the importance of
empowering women. By doing so, the entire ecosystem benefits,
"Family size drops," she states. And fewer
humans, Goodall reasons, means less destruction on the environment,
where the loss of wilderness is resulting in species
"Clearcutting is a problem," Goodall maintains.
"It's creating a desert for our kids and grandkids." And, she
explains, this leads not only to a loss of individuals, but to a
loss in the quality of populations and their genetic diversity.
"This applies to animals where all the human populations are
growing," Goodall says.
Human havoc can be seen in the drop
of chimpanzees -- now numbering between 120,000 and 150,000 down
from 2 million several decades ago. Goodall says the decrease can be
attributed to loss of habitat and hunters who, according to Goodall,
show no mercy.
"Chimps, elephants, antelope -- everything
that moves, they shoot," she says.
During her presentation,
Goodall showed slides of a baby chimp, who'd been "adopted" by a
dog. They mother had been killed by humters and the dog became a
mother substitute of sorts for the baby, Goodall explained. Other
orphans have ended up being trained for advertising and
"We know they're abused," the researcher stated, adding
that consumers who buy purchase products made from these wild
animals contribute to the problem by creating a market. But she
remains optimistic about human nature.
"Everyone of us makes
a difference," she said. "Don't let anybody laugh you out of your
The Jane Goodall Institute
Books by Jane