My mission is to create a world where we can live in harmony with nature.”
When Jane Goodall was just two years old, her father gave her a toy chimpanzee named Jubilee, beginning Jane’s lifelong love affair with animals. Her favorite books as a child were about animals, including The Story of Dr. Doolittle, The Jungle Book, and the Tarzan books. By the age of 10, Jane dreamed of going to Africa to live with animals.
When she was 23, Jane boarded a ship that took her from her home in England to Kenya. There she met Dr. Louis Leakey, a renowned paleontologist and anthropologist. Dr. Leakey was impressed with Jane and hired her as his assistant. She traveled with Dr. Leakey and his wife Mary Leakey to Olduvai Gorge on a fossil-hunting expedition. Though she enjoyed the expedition, it was clear to Jane that she would prefer to study living animals.
Recognizing her unique talent, Dr. Leakey offered Jane, who had no formal research training, the chance to study the wild chimpanzees of the Gombe Reserve in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) a very daring adventure for a young Englishwoman. In 1960 Jane arrived in Tanzania to begin her research at Gombe. It was very difficult for the first few months as the chimpanzees fled from Jane in fear. She persevered. Eventually the chimpanzees allowed her closer, and she began what has become the longest field study of any animal species in their natural habitat, now carried on by other researchers. One of Jane’s most significant discoveries was that the chimpanzees would strip leaves off of twigs to fashion tools for fishing termites from a nest. Previously, it was believed that humans were the only species to craft tools. In fact humans were defined as ‘Man the Toolmaker’.
In 1986 Jane’s life was forever changed. After attending a conference of chimpanzee experts in Chicago, she became fully aware of the devastating environmental threats that, if left unchecked, could easily wipe out the entire population of wild chimpanzees. Jane decided to give up her life in Gombe and became a tireless advocate for environmental conservation and education.
Today Jane Goodall is one of the most recognizable and celebrated female scientists in history. She travels around the world more than 300 days per year where she is known as an environmentalist and humanitarian. In 1977 Jane founded the Jane Goodall Institute www.janegoodall.org which now has offices in 20 countries working to promote community-centered conservation and development programs in Africa as well as a global youth environmental education program Roots & Shoots, which has tens of thousands of members in 100 countries.
Though best known for her work with chimpanzees, Jane is passionate about protecting all animals as well as their natural surroundings and the global environment. Among her many honors, she has been named a Dame of the British Empire (the female equivalent of a knighthood), has been awarded the Gandhi/King Award for Nonviolence, Spain’s Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research, the Franklin Medal, the French Legion of Honor, the UNESCO Gold Medal Award, and the National Geographic Society’s Hubbard Prize. She has been presented the Medal of Tanzania and Japan’s prestigious Kyoto Prize and has twice been named a United Nations Messenger of Peace.
Mother Nature could not ask for a better agent.