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Jane Goodall

Primatologist Jane Goodall has dedicated a lifetime to the study and conservation of our natural world. With her remarkable sensitivity and pioneering work in the field of primate research, Goodall offers an uncommon portrait of a feminist hero whose work has prompted global change. In an intimate interview that traces her journey from London, England to the jungles of Gombe, the activist and pioneer reflects on her life’s mission to redefine the way we view our world, and the legacy we choose to leave behind.

© the Jane Goodall Institute/ By Shawn Sweeney

I love dreaming. I think dreaming takes you to new places and refreshes your mind.

Jane Goodall

Q: What started your love affair with chimpanzees?

Jane Goodall: It wasn’t me at all, it was Louis Leakey ( a British paleoanthropologist and Jane’s mentor). Louis Leakey had been looking for 10 years for someone to go and study chimpanzees. I wouldn’t have dreamt of anything as exotic as a chimpanzee. I mean nobody had studied them, nobody knew anything about them. Not much in captivity, let alone in the wild. So when I first went there, I wasn’t particularly attracted to them, mainly because as soon as they saw me they ran away. I would’ve studied any animal but of course how lucky, because they are without question, the animal that can teach us most about ourselves. 

Q: You had mentioned that during your time in Gombe, you felt like nothing was going to hurt you because you were meant to be there. Have you always possessed that inner instinct of where you were meant to be and your place in the world?

JG: Well certainly when I was in Gombe I felt that. I mean right from the beginning, I knew I wanted to work with animals. I was prepared. Once I thought that if I couldn’t get to Africa, I would go to Canada becauseI was fascinated by wolves and  bears. I was also fascinated for a while by the Amazon, or the Green Hell they called it. I never got to either of those places because I got the opportunity to go to Africa and study the creature that is most like us. I was where I was meant to be. And it’s the same now. What I’m doing now is very different, travelling around the world 300 days a year, giving lectures, meetings and interviews, but I feel that it is what I’m meant to be doing.

Q: You spent a lot of your time in solitude in Africa.

JG: Yes I was alone, I loved to be alone. Being alone is very different than being lonely. 

Q: Were you ever afraid during your time in the jungle?

JG: For some reason, I was afraid of leopards. Especially if I was sleeping up on my own just with my little blanket, to be close to the chimps. I once saw a leopard that had been caught in a live trap for killing a dog, and the remains of the dog were put in the live trap. I had just arrived in Kenya and I went with Leaky to see this leopard. It was just the most savage looking thing. I know it was fear, but it just looked so fierce. So when I heard a leopard and that coughing sound they make, I’d put the blanket over my head and say, “I’m sure I’ll be okay”. 

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