Save the Chimps!

TFK chats with chimp expert Jane Goodall about the new Disneynature film Chimpanzee

Apr 20, 2012 | By Vickie An
© DISNEY

Disneynature has taken moviegoers to the polar regions, to the depths of the ocean and to the African savanna. On April 20, the studio will take audiences deep into the forests of Africa, too, with Chimpanzee. The movie, narrated by Tim Allen, tells the true-life tale of Oscar. He’s a young orphaned chimp who finds a surprising father figure in the male leader of his group. It is the first time this rare event has ever been captured on film.

To celebrate the movie’s release, Disneynature is teaming up with the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) for the “See Chimpanzee, Save Chimpanzees” campaign. For every ticket sold during opening week—April 20 to 26—Disneynature will make a donation to JGI through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund to help protect chimps in the wild. TFK spoke to JGI founder and chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall about the impact she hopes Oscar’s remarkable tale will have on moviegoers.

TFK:

Does a story like Oscar’s happen often in the wild?

JANE GOODALL:

Orphaned chimpanzee infants are usually adopted by a brother or a sister. For an alpha male to adopt a small, motherless infant is really extraordinary. I’ve heard of one other case where an alpha male adopted an infant. I believe that was also in the Ivory Coast [where Oscar lives]. How incredible that it would happen again when the film team was there. The footage is absolutely unbelievable.

TFK:

What are some of the wrong ideas people have about chimps that you hope the film will dispel?

Jane Goodall has been studying chimpanzees for 50 years. Her foundation, the Jane Goodall Institute, focuses on chimpanzee conservation.
STUART CLARKE
Jane Goodall has been studying chimpanzees for 50 years. Her foundation, the Jane Goodall Institute, focuses on chimp conservation.

GOODALL:

Many people don’t realize that chimpanzees are endangered. Hopefully, more people will become aware of how wonderful chimps are and have a better understanding of them after they see the movie. Also, there is a perception of chimps being good pets, and I truly think that this film will help dispel that myth.

TFK:

What is the biggest danger to chimpanzees today?

GOODALL:

It’s a mixture of the loss of habitat due to human population growth and of the bush meat trade, which is the illegal hunting of wild animals for food.

TFK:

Do you have a favorite memory that stands out over the 50 years you’ve been studying chimps?

GOODALL:

There are so many that stand out. I remember when Old Flo, a mother chimp who started off being terrified of me, began to trust me so much that she let her little 4-month-old son come up to me. She kept her hand gently around him, but she let him reach out and touch my nose. That was such a fulfilling moment.

TFK:

Do you ever miss working in the field full time?

GOODALL:

Oh, I would love to be back in the field! But it’s so desperately important to spread a message of awareness. It’s especially important to help people understand that the way we live our lives does make an impact on the environment. We have to raise new generations to be better stewards than we’ve been.

TFK:

What can kids do in their everyday lives to live a green life?

GOODALL:

What can all of us do if we just think about the consequences of the choices we make? Where do the things we buy come from? Do the things we eat cause suffering to animals? Are we wasteful? Do we remember to turn off lights and taps? Do we persuade our mothers to get out the car when we could walk or take a bicycle? It’s just thinking about what you do and if there is a more environmentally friendly way to do it.

TFK:

You have a youth program called Roots & Shoots. What is its mission, and how can kids get involved?

Disneynature will make a donation to the Jane Goodall Institute for every ticket sold in Chimpanzee's opening week. The money will go to help save the habitats of wild chimps like Oscar.
MARK LINFIELD. © DISNEY
Disneynature will make a donation to the JGI for every ticket sold in Chimpanzee's opening week. The money will go to help save the habitats of wild chimps like Oscar.

GOODALL:

The Roots & Shoots program encourages kids to take action to make the world a better place. Anybody can start a group by going to janegoodall.org. Sit down with your friends and choose three projects: one to help people, one to help animals and one to help the environment. Then work out what you’re going to do, roll up your sleeves and actually do it. Kids are changing the world as a result of the program, and they are having fun at the same time.

TFK:

Is there more we can learn about, and from, chimpanzees?

GOODALL:

I know there is. We’re learning all the time. Chimps really have taught us that there isn’t a sharp line dividing us from the rest of the animal kingdom. We are unique, but we’re not as different as we used to think.

TFK:

Women’s History Month was in March. Are there any women in history who had an influence on you?

GOODALL:

My mother was truly outstanding. The authorities wouldn’t let me [do research in the forest] alone, so my mother volunteered to come with me. That was tough. If you go camping today, you have a nice tent with mosquito-proof windows. But back then we had an old Army tent. If you wanted to let air in, you had to roll up the sides and tie them with a tape. Then in came the air and the snakes and the scorpions and the centipedes! My poor mother! But she never complained. She was the one person who didn’t laugh at me when, at age 10, I said I wanted to go to Africa and live with animals and write books about them. She would always say, “If you really want something and you work hard and you never give up, you will find a way.” She made me who I am.