In July 1960, at the age of 26 Jane Goodall traveled from England to Tanzania, and went into the world of wild chimpanzees. “When Jane Goodall entered the forest of Gombe, the world knew very little about chimpanzees, and even less about their unique genetic kinship to humans.” She took an unorthodox approach in her field research about their species. Jane Goodall’s discovery in 1960 that chimpanzees make and use tools is considered one of the greatest achievements of twentieth-century scholarship. Her field research at Gombe transformed our understanding of chimpanzees and redefined the relationship between humans and animals in ways that continue to emanate around the world.
Goodall’s stance is that scientists must try harder to find alternatives to using animals in research. She has openly declared her opposition to militant animal rights groups who engage in violent or destructive demonstrations. Extremists on both sides of the issue, she believes, polarize thinking and make constructive dialogue nearly impossible. While she is reluctantly resigned to the continuation of animal research, she feels that young scientists must be educated to treat animals more compassionately. “By and large,” she has wrote, “students are taught that it is ethically acceptable to perpetrate, in the name of science, what, from the point of view of animals, would certainly qualify as torture.
Goodall’s efforts to educate people about the ethical treatment of animals extends to young children as well. Her 1989 book, The Chimpanzee Family Book, was written specifically for children, to convey a new, more humane view of wildlife. The book received the 1989 Unicef/Unesco Children’s Book-of-the-Year Award, and Goodall used the prize money to have the text translated into Swahili. It has been distributed throughout Tanzania, Uganda, and Burundi to educate children who live in or near areas populated by chimpanzees. A French version has also been distributed in Burundi and Congo. Daily, Dr. Jane Goodall exemplifies the difference one person can make.
Over the years, her groundbreaking research at Gombe has attracted many women, who were nearly absent from the field of primatology when she began. Today, women lead the field of long-term primate behavioral studies around the world. She also inspires hundreds of thousands of young people to take action in their own lives and communities through the Roots & Shoots youth program. Now 100 countries strong and growing, Roots & Shoots is an unprecedented multiplying force in conservation, giving young people the knowledge and confidence to act on their beliefs and make a difference by being part of something bigger than themselves.