“ARE CHIMPANZEES EVEN AN­I­MALS?”

JANE GOODALL How changed our un­der­stand­ing of apes and hu­mans.

Bulletin - - Contents - By Daniel Am­mann

“No more than we hu­mans are.”

You were only 23 when you de­cided to ful­fill your life­long dream: re­search­ing an­i­mals in Africa. In those days, a trip like that was an ad­ven­ture – and not just for a young woman.

It was very ex­cit­ing. It took me three weeks to travel to Kenya by ship. There were flights avail­able, too, but they were much too ex­pen­sive for me back then. My parents weren't wealthy. I worked as a sec­re­tary and wait­ress to earn money for the pas­sage.

You were brave.

I only did what I had wanted to do since I was a child. That didn't take courage.

Where did your early pas­sion for Africa come from?

It started when I read “Doc­tor Doolit­tle” as a lit­tle girl. He could speak to the an­i­mals and took cir­cus an­i­mals back to Africa. I loved that book. Then I dis­cov­ered “Tarzan of the Apes” when I was ten. I fell in love with Tarzan. And what did he do? He mar­ried the wrong Jane!

What did you es­pe­cially like about the Tarzan sto­ries?

What ap­pealed to me with Tarzan as well as Mowgli from “The Jun­gle Book” was that they lived with an­i­mals, they talked to an­i­mals. I dreamed of that.

Did your love of an­i­mals sur­face very early in life?

I was born with a love of an­i­mals. At age four I laid down in the chicken coop be­cause I wanted to know where the eggs came out of the chick­ens. I didn't see a hole that was big enough for an egg. No one could ex­plain it to me. So I waited for hours in the coop. My parents didn't know where I was and called the police.

You must’ve got­ten in big trou­ble.

When my mother saw my eyes shin­ing with ex­cite­ment, every­thing was for­got­ten. In­stead of get­ting an­gry, she lis­tened to my story of how the hen laid an egg. I'm telling you this story be­cause it ex­plains the ori­gin of a young sci­en­tist. Cu­rios­ity, ask­ing ques­tions, not get­ting the right an­swer, not giv­ing up, want­ing to find things out for her­self and learn­ing to be pa­tient. These things were al­ready there in this lit­tle four-year-old girl. An­other mother might have nipped such early sci­en­tific cu­rios­ity in the bud.

In 1960, you be­gan ob­serv­ing chimpanzees in the wild in Gombe Na­tional Park in Tan­za­nia. Was it easy to gain the chimpanzees’ trust?

Not at all. As soon as they saw me, they van­ished into the for­est. They ran away. This went on for months, ev­ery sin­gle day. Then one chim­panzee be­gan to lose his fear of me. He didn't run away any­more. He had a lovely white beard, so I named him David Grey­beard.

Was David Grey­beard es­pe­cially cu­ri­ous or in­tel­li­gent?

He was es­pe­cially calm. That car­ried over to the other chimpanzees. They saw David Grey­beard sit­ting next to me and prob­a­bly thought: “This strange white she-ape can't be too ter­ri­ble.” The chimpanzees even­tu­ally ac­cepted me thanks to David Grey­beard, and I could ob­serve

them from close up. I also owe one of my most im­por­tant dis­cov­er­ies to him: I saw how he took a twig, stripped off its leaves and stuck it in a ter­mite mound. When he pulled the twig back out, it was cov­ered with ter­mites that he re­moved with his lips and ate.

What was so spe­cial about that?

An an­i­mal used a tool that he made him­self! That turned sci­en­tific the­ory up­side down. Back then sci­en­tists as­sumed that only hu­mans could make tools. That dif­fer­en­ti­ated peo­ple from an­i­mals. When I in­formed my boss Louis Leakey about my dis­cov­ery, he was very ex­cited and sent me a tele­gram: “Now we must re­de­fine tool STOP re­de­fine man STOP or ac­cept chimpanzees as hu­man.”

Do you even think of chimpanzees as an­i­mals?

No more than we hu­mans are.

What have you learned about peo­ple by re­search­ing chimpanzees?

How like us they are. Our DNA dif­fers by only a lit­tle more than one per­cent. We have prac­ti­cally the same im­mune sys­tem and brain struc­ture. We could even re­ceive a blood trans­fu­sion from a chim­panzee if the blood type matches.

What’s the big­gest dif­fer­ence?

We are far more in­tel­li­gent than chimpanzees, of course. That's be­cause we have de­vel­oped a spo­ken lan­guage. We can tell our chil­dren what hap­pened in the past and teach them about things that we can­not see. We can make ab­stract plans for the fu­ture.

You were the first per­son to find out that chimpanzees hunt and eat meat – and that they have in­di­vid­ual per­son­al­i­ties. Could you de­scribe some of the char­ac­ter­is­tics of chimpanzees that you lived with?

Go­liath was eas­ily ex­citable, im­petu­ous and very coura­geous. David Grey­beard was calm and gen­tle. Flo was an amaz­ingly sup­port­ive mother. She would have done any­thing to pro­tect her chil­dren. Pas­sion, by con­trast, was less car­ing. When her two-month-old daugh­ter Pom in­jured her foot, it barely in­ter­ested her. In­stead of sup­port­ing her with one hand as Flo would have done, she just car­ried the lit­tle thing on her back, even in the rain. So I saw all their dif­fer­ences, how they could be ex­cited or feel sad or mis­er­able. I saw their hu­man­like be­hav­ior, how they begged, em­braced and kissed.

That’s why you were ini­tially dis­missed by sci­en­tists.

They told me I had done every­thing wrong. I should have given the chimpanzees num­bers, not names. That was un­sci­en­tific. I shouldn't at­tribute hu­man char­ac­ter­is­tics, emo­tions or minds to them. I knew that these pro­fes­sors were wrong. For­tu­nately, I had a won­der­ful teacher as a child, my dog Rusty, who taught me that an­i­mals have per­son­al­i­ties, minds and feel­ings, of course.

Why did the sci­en­tific com­mu­nity be­have this way to­ward you? Out of ar­ro­gance?

Ar­ro­gance cer­tainly played a role. And then there was the in­flu­ence of re­li­gion and early philoso­phers who be­lieved that only hu­mans could have such traits, that there was a dif­fer­ence of kind be­tween hu­mans and an­i­mals. These days we know it's just a dif­fer­ence of de­gree.

You were a young woman, a sec­re­tary with­out sci­en­tific train­ing. Would you say that this re­jec­tion was also a type of pri­mate be­hav­ior? The dom­i­nant male doesn’t want to lis­ten to any­thing from a young fe­male?

There re­ally was a lot of talk back then: “Why should we be­lieve this young woman? She didn't even go to col­lege – and she's a woman.” That played a role, no doubt about it.

Maybe it was even an ad­van­tage that you didn’t go to uni­ver­sity?

I think so. Let's as­sume I had stud­ied bi­ol­ogy in col­lege: Some­one would have told me at a point in time when I was fairly young and im­pres­sion­able that an­i­mals don't have per­son­al­i­ties, minds or feel­ings. They also would have said that I shouldn't feel em­pa­thy for my re­search sub­jects, that a sci­en­tist needs to re­main cold and ob­jec­tive. I prob­a­bly would have be­lieved it. It prob­a­bly would have col­ored all of my ob­ser­va­tions of the chimpanzees. But for­tu­nately I hadn't been told these things. It's rub­bish to say that you can't be a good ob­server un­less you're to­tally ob­jec­tive. With­out my em­pa­thy I would never have found many things out, or only dis­cov­ered them much later.

Do vi­sions some­times re­quire an un­prej­u­diced view?

Yes, in­deed.

It’s in­ter­est­ing that the three most sig­nif­i­cant re­searchers of great apes were women: you with chimpanzees, Dian Fossey with go­ril­las, and Biruté Galdikas with orang­utans. Do women do bet­ter in the field than men?

Louis Leakey, who en­trusted us three women with this re­search, thought so, too. He al­ways felt women make bet­ter ob­servers in the field.

Did Leakey ever tell you why he thought that?

He had been in the field with women and men, and he saw that women were more pa­tient, much calmer and more ob­ser­vant. You know, if you want to be a good mother, a good hu­man mother, you need to have pa­tience and be ob­ser­vant. You

Why should we be­lieve this young woman?

need to un­der­stand the needs of a lit­tle be­ing be­fore it can speak.

What do you con­sider to be your most im­por­tant dis­cov­ery?

How im­por­tant the mother is. The most fas­ci­nat­ing thing for me is the dif­fer­ent ways that moth­ers raise their chil­dren. There are good moth­ers and bad moth­ers. The good ones are af­fec­tion­ate, play a lot and, most im­por­tantly, they sup­port their child. Even if it gets into a fight with a high-rank­ing fe­male, a good mother will get in the mid­dle to pro­tect her child – even if she gets beaten up her­self.

Is there an evo­lu­tion­ary ad­van­tage to be­ing a lov­ing mother?

We can look back at al­most 60 years of re­search in Gombe and defini­tively say: Early child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences are fun­da­men­tally im­por­tant. It's rather clear that the off­spring of sup­port­ive moth­ers do bet­ter in life. Males gen­er­ally achieve a higher po­si­tion in the hi­er­ar­chy and fe­males tend to be­come bet­ter moth­ers.

How do you ex­plain that?

The off­spring of sup­port­ive moth­ers are clearly more self-con­fi­dent. They dare to try more and don't give up, even af­ter los­ing four or five fights against stronger op­po­nents. This brings them far­ther up the hi­er­ar­chy.

You also ob­served in chimpanzees what you call “the dark side” of pri­mates: vi­o­lence, fights to the death, ter­ri­to­rial wars be­tween ri­val chim­panzee groups that lasted for years.

That was only af­ter a few years and it was shock­ing for me. Up to then I thought that chimpanzees were like us, but more no­ble.

The no­ble sav­age?

Ex­actly. And then this bru­tal­ity, I even wit­nessed can­ni­bal­ism. It was re­ally hor­ri­ble.

Were there times when you were afraid?

There was a time in the late 1980s when sev­eral of the males were very ag­gres­sive, real bul­lies that ha­rassed and in­tim­i­dated the oth­ers. The most ag­gres­sive of them, Frodo, pushed me down, beat me and stomped on me. It's clear to me that he didn't want to in­jure me se­ri­ously or kill me, be­cause I wouldn't be here if he did. Frodo wanted to prove his dom­i­nance. His ag­gres­sive be­hav­ior made him the al­pha male. But I also ex­pe­ri­enced how al­tru­is­tic chimpanzees can be.

Could you give an ex­am­ple?

One time a chim­panzee mother died not long af­ter she had given birth. That would have been a death sen­tence for the or­phan. She never could have sur­vived with­out a mother. But then the or­phan was adopted by an­other fe­male who didn't ben­e­fit from it per­son­ally in any way. Pure self­less­ness.

With chimpanzees, mov­ing up in the hi­er­ar­chy and be­ing as dom­i­nant as pos­si­ble ob­vi­ously plays an im­por­tant role. Does that re­mind you of hu­mans?

Yes, male chimpanzees ex­hibit many be­hav­iors that we also see in politi­cians: show­ing off, swag­ger­ing around to make them­selves ap­pear big and pow­er­ful. The pres­i­den­tial de­bate be­tween Don­ald Trump and Hil­lary Clin­ton is a good ex­am­ple. You could see his dis­play be­hav­ior when she was speak­ing. Don't mis­un­der­stand me: I'm not com­par­ing Trump to a chim­panzee. I'm sim­ply say­ing that he was dis­play­ing a be­hav­ior sim­i­lar to that of male chimpanzees when they want to be­come the al­pha male.

You man­aged to assert your­self as a young woman in a male-dom­i­nated world. What ad­vice would you give young women to­day?

The same ad­vice my mother gave me: If you re­ally want some­thing, then you have to be pre­pared to work very hard, take ad­van­tage of op­por­tu­nity and never – never – give up.

And then this bru­tal­ity.

1 “I was born with a love of an­i­mals”: Jane Goodall in 1960 in an early phase of her re­search in Gombe Na­tional Park in Tan­za­nia. 2 With her dog, Rusty, “my won­der­ful teacher,” in Bournemouth, United King­dom, 1954. 3 “I could ob­serve them from close up”:

3

2

1

2 2 Louise, the chim­panzee, is re­leased on Tchind­zoulou Is­land in the Repub­lic of the Congo, where Goodall founded an in­sti­tute for pri­mate pro­tec­tion and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

1 1 “Just a dif­fer­ence of de­gree”: the re­searcher with Freud, the chim­panzee, in Gombe Na­tional Park in Tan­za­nia.

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