Celebrate The 83rd Birthday of Legendary Primatologist, Jane Goodall

Celebrate The 83rd Birthday of Legendary Primatologist, Jane Goodall

Posted by Leanne Sturrock on 3rd Apr 2017

On the 3rd of April 2017, world-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall turns 82. For almost six decades, Goodall has committed much of her time to conservation efforts and activism – all while cementing her position as the authority on chimpanzee knowledge and education. As we celebrate another year of this brilliant lady’s life, join us in honouring some of her greatest achievements.

She challenged – and shattered – some long-held misconceptions about primates

Often considered to be the highlight of Goodall’s already glowing resume, her discovery of chimpanzee behaviours remains to be one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs in modern history. For a long time, it was believed that chimpanzees were vegetarian, and that we humans were the only known species capable of construction and using tools. Both of these beliefs were dispelled by Goodall early on in her career: after some time spent observing chimpanzees feeding at a termite mound, Goodall noticed that the animal would repeatedly place stalks of grass into termite holes, before withdrawing the stalk covered in termites. This was, effectively, an intentional method comparable to fishing – and was only the first instance of the chimpanzees using tools that Goodall had noted. She also noticed that the animals would take twigs from trees and strip off the leaves: a form of object modification considered to be the rudimentary beginnings of toolmaking, and forcing human perception of the apes to alter quite dramatically. In addition to this, Goodall also observed something otherwise unknown to the world at the time: chimpanzees most certain are not vegetarian and, in fact, can be quite gruesome in their systematic hunting of smaller primates. She noted how the animals would hunt together taking on particular roles in the takedown of their prey, and sharing the animal’s carcass amongst the troop in terms of rank.

She is the only human being to have ever been accepted into chimpanzee society

Thanks to her unconventional and attentive studies (at least, they were considered as such at the time), Goodall was able to win the respect of not only her peers, but that of the troop at Gombe. To this day, Goodall remains to be the only human to have ever been accepted into chimpanzee society: for a period of 22 months, she was ‘ranked’ as a member of the group. Human-chimp interactions or relations of this nature have, to this date, never been seen again.

Jane Goodall and chimpanzees

She has developed a wildly successful global youth programme known as Roots and Shoots

Roots and Shoots began in 1991, after a group of local teenagers descended upon Goodall’s back porch in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Eager to discuss an array of issues they had experienced first hand, the youths inspired Goodall to create a programme which seeks to implement positive changes through education through various means: interaction with the environment, the demonstration of care and compassion for all creatures on earth, to establish greater understanding across cultures and religions, and to assist young people in developing confidence and positive attitudes.

She is a beloved pop-culture icon – and has a wicked sense of humour, too

That’s right: as well as being highly-revered as a genius and the authority on all things ‘primate’, Goodall has also been known the steal the show on the silver screen, on famous artist’s albums, and even comic scripts. A few of the most notable nods to Goodall include the Stevie Nicks track ‘Jane’ (from the album Street Angel), an appearance in an episode of The Wild Thornberrys (in which she voices herself), and she even appears in Apple’s ‘Think Different’ campaign. The most famous homage to Goodall, however, is the in an episode of The Simpsons known as ‘Simpson Safari.’ A tongue-in-cheek episode loosely based on the primatologist features a character known as ‘Dr Joan Bushwell’, a research scientist in charge of a chimpanzee refuge who is secretly forcing her chimps to mine diamonds on her behalf. While the cartoon could not be further from the real Jane Goodall’s reality, it wasn’t the only time a questionable portrayal sparked media attention: a famous cartoon known as ‘Far Side’ features two chimpanzees in conversation while grooming, when one finds a blonde human hair on the other. He inquires, ‘Conducting a little more research with that Jane Goodall tramp?’ The incident was met with uproar from Goodall’s own institute, describing the cartoon as an ‘atrocity.’ However, when she eventually saw the cartoon for herself, Goodall actually found it to be quite hilarious and even went so far as to publicly praise the ‘creative ideas’ used in Far Side.

If you'd like to follow in Jane's footsteps and do your part for primate conservation, why not take a look at The Great Gorilla Project? Here, you will have the opportunity to trek not only gorillas, but chimpanzees too at the renowed Queen Elizabeth National Park. Head to the project page now to find out more!

Jane Goodall

All photo credits given to www.wildchimpanzees.org


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Deborah commented 5 years ago
Absolute inspiration, a lovely lady. My Great Project is going to be with Orangutans and pigmy elephants.

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