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Interview with Primatologist Jane Goodall

Aired February 2, 2010 - 16:49:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (voice-over): Jane Goodall left her home in London for the jungles of Africa at the age of 26. Driven by a deep love of animals, her goal was to work with the chimpanzees of Tanzania.

JANE GOODALL: I fell madly in love with Tarzan. I was incredibly jealous of Tarzan's Jane and I thought she was a real wind (ph) and I'd have made a much better mate for Tarzan myself, which I think I would have. And so that was when I had these dreams.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Five decades on, she is now one of the world's most famous eco warriors. Focused on protecting natural habitat, Goodall has cemented her role on the global stage as a primatologist, environmentalist and humanitarian. And recently, her work has moved from the jungle to the classroom. Goodall encourages young people to do their part through her youth organization, Roots & Shoots.

A tireless campaigner, she travels the globe more than 300 days of the year, promoting conservation and action.

GOODALL: If we carry on with business as usual -- and, of course, we've just had a major glitch with the financial breakdown -- it's going to end in disaster.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A legend of the past and a role model for the future. Jane Goodall is our Connector of the Day.


QUEST: And a little earlier, we spoke to our Connector of the Day, Jane Goodall, from her home in Bournemouth here in England. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of her research. And I asked her how that makes her feel.


GOODALL: Half a century, it's amazing. And, you know, it started off with my mother and I arriving on the shores of Ghandi (ph) on the 14th of July. And initially, it was just me studying with chimpanzees and then Stephen exploring with me. And it became a -- a very vibrant research station. And then realizing that outside this national park, the trees had gone and the chimpanzees were endangered. And, you know, that led to all our programs to save forests, to save chimpanzees and to work with young people in 120 countries around the planet.

QUEST: Katie asks, when you first started how -- how much was known about chimp behavior?

How human-like were they considered to be?

GOODALL: There was information from captive chimpanzees in zoos and, you know, these kinds of things. But information from the wild basically didn't exist. So although people had information from captivity about how intelligent chimpanzees are, when they heard about toll using and so forth in the wild, they were completely amazed, because somehow it was felt that they can't, you know, being like humans had made the chimpanzees more intelligent than, perhaps, they were in the wild. And that, of course, isn't true.

QUEST: Touralee Sergeant (ph) asks an interesting question. She wants to know -- know what your views are on keeping chimps as domestic pets, because when you started your work, that wasn't an extraordinary idea, whereas it is now, isn't it?

GOODALL: Chimpanzees are not meant to be pets. They never should leave their mothers. They always should be in their own solitary group.

QUEST: And from being involved with just one animal, you've been drawn into the whole environmental cause, which you were well ahead of. I mean, everyone is talking about green issues now, but you were well ahead of the curve. And Jimmy wants to know how you feel about the climate change controversies going on and whether you feel like the skepticism is making people care less about it now, because this just seems to be going full circle?

GOODALL: I think -- I hope that more people actually are aware of the human activities that are leading to the warming up of the entire surface and also, you know, the -- the drastic changes in weather patterns. And I just was in Greenland and I stood with Inuit elders. And I was at the base of this huge ice cliff (ph). And 30 years ago, that never melted, not even in the summer.

So there's no question but that there is climate change and there's no question in most people's minds that it's our activities that, at the very least, are speeding it up and that -- in a very frightening way, a very frightening way.

QUEST: And John has got a question, which is more about the direct impact of human behavior. Would you support the developed world subsidizing the non-development habitat preservation of remaining wild lands in the developing world?

GOODALL: Absolutely. And, in fact, I was in Copenhagen and the reason I was there was to support the red initiative (INAUDIBLE). And that's the reduction in emissions that come from deforestation and forest degradation. And that's helping the local people to monitor their efforts to protect their forests. And if they can prove that they can do so, then that (INAUDIBLE) for the kind of money that you're talking about -- money from the polluters, money from the developed world.

QUEST: And, finally, Mattheis Thei (ph) asks, what other animals have you worked with?

Of course, you're famous for working with chimpanzees and gorillas.

But what other animals have you worked with?

And are you considering other animals for the future?

GOODALL: My youth program, the Jane Goodall Institute's Roots & Shoots program, which involves young people from preschool right through to the university. And, as I say, it's in 120 countries. And all of these different groups choose projects to make the world better. So many of them have selected different endangered species they learn about and help to raise money to save.

So, actually, from this tiny little beginning 50 years ago, we have reached out to both habitats and people improving their lives so that they, in turn, can become our partners to save the forests and working to save other animals from (INAUDIBLE) because we're all in this together.


QUEST: Jane Goodall, who's been working on that project for 50 years, would you believe?