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JANE GOODALL (1934 - )



Jane Goodall has observed and studied the behaviour of chimpanzees in the wild, over a period of at least twenty five years. This has involved her living closely with the animals in their habitat and has made her the world's foremost authority on wild chimpanzees.

Jane was born in London and went to school in Bournemouth. When she was very small the first chimpanzee ever to have been bred at London Zoo was born. At the time this was an very important event and as a result her mother bought her a toy chimpanzee which Jane called Jubilee. Jubilee was to stay with Jane all her life and was probably the start of her enthusiasm for chimpanzees and wild life.

She did not go on to university but left school at eighteen. After leaving school she and went to stay with a friend in Kenya and while there, she met the world famous scientist Dr Louis Leakey who was researching the remains of all forms of prehistoric life, including man. Although Jane had hardly any scientific training, her love and deep interest in animals impressed Dr Leakey and he appointed her as his secretary and assistant. During her work with Dr Leakey they often discussed one particular community of chimpanzees that lived on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. Dr Leakey felt that a study of such chimpanzees, their family life and relationships in the community might provide an insight into our own prehistoric ancestors.

Such a study would, however, be extremely difficult and arduous, as it would involve someone living and working in rough mountainous country far from civilisation. Dr Leakey felt Jane had the right enthusiasm and attitude for the job and Jane readily accepted. It was, however, a tricky appointment. Jane was young, inexperienced and poorly qualified and Dr Leakey need to obtain funding from the Wilkie Foundation in Illinois, USA. Drawing on all his powers of persuasion, he obtained the funding, but by the time Jane started she had already learned a great deal about chimpanzees and their lifestyle.

Jane took up the post at the Gombe Game Reserve in 1960. Things did not go smoothly at first. She found the chimpanzees shy and could not get close to them and after three months fell ill with a fever. After these initial setbacks, however, she found to her delight, the chimpanzees were beginning to allow her to get closer to them, allowing her to watch them even though they were aware of her presence. Jane observed that they only trusted her if she was alone, wore the same clothes and did not try to interfere with them.

Over the years, Jane was able to observe the most intimate details of the family and social life of the chimpanzees. How they played, brought up their children, communicated with each other, what food they ate and how and where they built their homes. Jane's findings provided Dr Leakey with a great deal of valuable and exciting material. She found that chimpanzees were omnivores and ate many different types of leaves and fruit as well as termites, ants, caterpillars. They raided bees hives in search of honey, hunted in groups to kill larger prey and used sticks and leaves as tools to assist them in everyday living. She also discovered that the chimpanzees were capable of intense warlike behaviour often when the group's territory was threatened by outsiders. When fighting occurred, it was often violent, killing young and old alike. Jane also observed the chimpanzees appeared to show expressions of emotion similar to our own, such as sadness, curiosity, anger and pleasure.

All of this information on the behaviour and lifestyle of the chimpanzees has provided valuable material to help understand why humans carry out violent behaviour.

Jane's fame spread throughout the world. In 1965 Cambridge University acknowledged and honoured her work, by awarding her a doctorate and in 1967 she became the Scientific Director of the Gombe Stream Research Centre. An important centre of scientific research it has attracted students from many countries.

Jane has received many awards, including in 1984 the J Paul Getty Wildlife Conservation Prize. She has written two books and many papers for scientific journals, as well as scientific articles for the National Geographic and now teaches students to understand and appreciate the importance of wildlife conservation.

Jane has always attributed her success and enthusiasm for her work to her mother Vanne Goodall, herself an international author.

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