Equipped with little more than a notebook, binoculars, and her fascination with wildlife, Dr. 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. 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 environmental crises, urging each of us to take action on behalf of all living things and planet we share.
When Dr. 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. 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. 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 redefined traditional conservation with an approach that recognizes the central role people play in the well-being of animals and habitat. In 1991, when a group of young people confided their own deep concerns, she invited them to co-found Roots & Shoots, a program at work with young people in 100 countries to foster the informed generation of conservation leaders our world so urgently needs.
Every day, Dr. 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.
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