A Chat with Jane Goodall

 

The world-famous conservationist talks to TFK about protecting animals and their habitats

Sep 23, 2009 | By Suzanne Zimbler

When Dr. Jane Goodall was a kid growing up in England, her favorite books were Tarzan and Dr. Doolittle. She dreamed of one day living among wild animals. The opportunity to do just that came when Goodall was 26 years old. World-famous anthropologist Louis S. B. Leakey asked her to study a group of chimpanzees living in Tanzania. Goodall moved to the African country and spent the next 25 years studying the primates in their natural habitat. What she learned about chimpanzees fascinated people all over the world.

After studying animals for the first part of her career, Goodall began working to protect not only chimpanzees, but all creatures. Her new book, Hope for Animals and Their World, is a collection of conservation success stories. TFK talked to Goodall about her new book and her advice for young people.

TFK:

What inspired you to write a book about conservation success stories?

DR. JANE GOODALL:

here's so much doom and gloom about the environment, all of which is totally justified. But at the same time, because of all of my travel, I meet these extraordinary people and hear about these amazing projects, and they really do give hope. They show that there is so much resilience in nature that we can turn things around.

TFK:

Why are these stories important?

GOODALL:

There are a lot of young people who are going out and wanting to save species, and they are so often told, "Give up. It's hopeless. There's climate change. There's no point. You may as well let these creatures die. There's nothing we can do about it." And if we have that attitude, then soon there will be nothing left.

TFK:

I heard you carry around a feather from a California condor. Is that true?

GOODALL:

It's right in front of me on the table. It's right here. It's so beautiful.

TFK:

What is so special about the California condor?

GOODALL:

There were few condors left in the wild, and they were captured for captive breeding. Everyone involved was told that it was a waste of time. They were told that they would kill the birds catching them, that the birds would never breed in captivity, that if they did, the birds would never be able to be released, and if they were released, they would never succeed in nesting in the wild. All of those things were proved wrong. So, I carry it because it's a symbol of hope.

TFK:

Which conservation project are you personally involved with right now?

GOODALL:

The one I love is the restoration of the land around Gombe National Park, where the chimps are. The 24 villages were required by the government to make a plan for their land use. They arranged their conservation area so that there is a buffer between them and the chimps. Land that they had absolutely changed from forest to desert by over-farming has now got trees that are 20 feet high just in three years because it's so resilient.

TFK:

How are kids helping with conservation efforts?

GOODALL:

In our Roots and Shoots program, kids are making a difference everywhere.

TFK:

What are they doing?

GOODALL:

One program in the U.S. where the Roots and Shoots kids have really helped is the saving of the Channel Island fox that's off the coast of California. The problem was the introduction of pigs and various creatures that messed up the habitat. Soon, the foxes were almost extinct on this one island. The children have helped by raising awareness, raising money, writing letters and helping the zoo in Santa Barbara that's raising the foxes in captivity.

TFK:

How do we prioritize when so many creatures need our help?

GOODALL:

I think the answer to that is very simple. One of those species or stories will really appeal to you, and that's where you should go. The first thing is to learn about the different areas where you could become involved. And then out of those, one surely will reach into your heart, and you'll feel, "I really want to help." If you can focus and do what you can in the area you're most passionate about, and realize that other people are doing the same for different species, then you begin to feel a little bit more hopeful.

TFK:

How should kids who want to help get started?

GOODALL:

The first thing they should do is to join Roots and Shoots. It gives them an opportunity to interact with other young people who are passionate like they are all around the world. The website is a way for them to learn more.