Canadian Geographic


- —Interview by Michela Rosano

Jane Goodall is a living legend. Known best for her pioneering work studying chimpanzee­s in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, the world-renowned primatolog­ist and conservati­onist is also the bestsellin­g, award-winning author of books such as In the Shadow of Man and Reason for Hope. The Jane Goodall Institute, which focuses on chimpanzee research and protection and collaborat­ive work with communitie­s, now has 34 locations around the world, while her Roots & Shoots program, which is inspiring youth to become conservati­onists and compassion­ate leaders, is in nearly 60 countries. Here Goodall, who received The Royal Canadian Geographic­al Society’s Gold Medal in September, discusses her legacy.

On how she became interested in animals

I was born loving animals. I had a supportive mother. I watched animals; I read books about animals.

When I was 4½ years old, I went to stay on a farm in the country. My job was to collect the hens’ eggs, and I began asking everybody, “But where does the egg come out of the hen?” And nobody told me, so I waited in the henhouse until, four hours later, a hen came in and laid an egg. Mom didn’t know where I was. She could have gotten mad at me, but instead she sat down to hear the wonderful story about how a hen lays an egg.

On the conference that turned her from researcher to activist

That meeting, which was four days in Chicago in 1986, we had a session on conservati­on. It was shocking. We watched secretly filmed footage on conditions in captive situations, such as medical research and the cruel training of entertainm­ent chimps — taking them from their mothers, beating them. I left that conference an activist.

On what she’s working on now

We’ve got 34 Jane Goodall Institutes around the world and they’ve all got different research projects. The main one that I’m involved in is the TACARE program to protect forests, because one of the very best ways to mitigate climate change is to protect and restore them. We work with the local people to improve their lives and help find ways for them to make a living without destroying the environmen­t.

On what individual­s can do

Every day we make choices, don’t we? And if we start learning a little bit about these things, we can make more ethical decisions. One of the best things to change is your diet. As more people around the world eat more meat, there are billions of animals in factory farms. The cruelty is horrendous. Areas are cleared to grow the grain to feed them. Fossil fuel is used to get the grain to the animals, the animals to the abattoir, the meat to the table. Large amounts of water are needed. And then the animals themselves produce methane, a very dangerous greenhouse gas. Eating a little bit less meat makes a very big difference.

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