Equipped with little more than a notebook, binoculars, and her fascination with wildlife, Jane Goodall braved a realm of unknowns to give the world a remarkable window into humankind’s closest living relatives. Through nearly 60 years of groundbreaking work, Dr. Jane Goodall has not only shown us the urgent need to protect chimpanzees from extinction; she has also redefined species conservation to include the needs of local people and the environment. Today she travels the world, speaking about the threats facing chimpanzees and about environmental crises, urging each of us to take action on behalf of all living things and the planet we share.
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, immersing herself in their habitat and their lives to experience their complex society as a neighbor rather than a distant observer and coming to understand them not only as a species, but also as individuals with emotions and long-term bonds. Dr. 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.
On the path to becoming the world’s leading primatologist, Dr. Jane Goodall redefined traditional conservation. In 1977, she founded the Jane Goodall Institute to support the research in Gombe and scale up the protection of chimpanzees in their habitats. In the late 1980s, it became clear that Gombe was only part of the solution to a much bigger, rapidly growing problem of deforestation and declining chimpanzee populations across Africa. Knowing that local communities are key to protecting chimpanzees, she pioneered an approach to conservation that recognizes the central role people play in the well-being of animals and habitat.
Jane is on the road more than 300 days per year (pre-COVID-19). At any given time, she could be on any continent. On any given day, she could be speaking to a group of students, meeting with government officials to discuss conservation issues, sitting before television cameras being interviewed, or meeting with donors to raise money for JGI.
Often, Jane holds public lectures during which she discusses her years at Gombe, the state of chimpanzees today, JGI’s programs, and each individual’s power to effect positive change. Jane is in great demand and is known as an inspirational speaker who often moves her audiences to tears. Some people say their lives have been changed by Jane’s message and her example.
What about Gombe National Park — Jane’s favorite place on Earth? Does she spend much time there today? Jane generally gets back to Gombe at least twice per year, to “recharge her batteries” and see what her now-famous chimpanzees are up to.
Jane has a special connection to young people. They respond not only to her passion for and curiosity about animals, but also to her courage and hope for a better world. Reaching out to these young people is a high priority for Jane, and conservation education, as well as general education, is a critical part of JGI’s work today. Through Jane’s Roots & Shoots program, Jane hears firsthand the voices of young people – from Tanzania to China, North America to the United Kingdom – speaking of the need for change, their hopes, and their determination to make a better world. She carries their message to audiences all over the world.
This is Jane’s life today — sometimes exhausting, but always driven by purpose. Jane is determined to use just about every minute she has working to save chimpanzees and to empower people — young and old — to do what they can for a better world.