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Chimps R Us

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Frontiers profile: Jane Goodall 4 pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

Photo of Jane Goodall and chimpsYoung Jane Goodall got her first job in Africa assisting renowned paleontologist Louis Leakey. Impressed with her knowledge of animals, Leakey suggested Goodall study chimpanzees at Tanzania's Gombe Stream Reserve. Once funding was arranged in 1960, the 26-year-old untrained animal enthusiast set off into the forest, and launched what would become the most comprehensive and revealing study of chimps in the wild. Alan Alda caught up with Goodall recently during one of many speaking tours.
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AA: I get the impression you saw things as they really were instead of through the prism of the stereotypes that were prevalent at the time. Everybody said they didn't make tools, but you saw them. What was the difference between what you did and what other people had done?

I had this amazing teacher who taught me so much about animal behavior, and that was my dog Rusty.

JG: The first thing was that I had this love of animals, which lots of kids have, and this wonderful mother who encouraged me to follow my dream. All through my childhood, I had this amazing teacher who taught me so much about animal behavior, and that was my dog Rusty. He taught me that animals have personalities, minds and feelings. So when I got to Cambridge, I wasn't there because I wanted to be a scientist, I was there because Louis Leakey felt I needed a Ph.D. and he was right. But I didn't actually care about academia, and I knew they were talking rubbish. I knew they were wrong, so what I did at Cambridge was learn how to express what I knew in a way that did not leave me open to be attacked.

Photo of Jane amd Alan
Alan learns to speak "chimp" from Jane Goodall.  

I remember writing something about one of the young chimps, Fifi, a very special chimp. When her little brother was born, other chimps would come to play with him and she would be very angry and chase them away. I wrote that she was jealous. My supervisor said, 'But you can't say that, you don't know it.' I said, 'Well, I do.' He said, 'Well, this is how you must write it: Fifi behaved in such a way that had she been human, we would say she was jealous.' And this is very clever, because nobody can dispute that.

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4 pages: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

Photo: Jane Goodall Institute

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