The Irish Times

Renowned primatolog­ist communicat­es the shared threat Lara Marlowe

Now 81, Goodall still spends most of her time campaignin­g for animal rights

- Lara Marlowe in Paris

A sun-tanned, white-haired 81-year-old woman who has devoted her life to preserving the animal kingdom may well be the most impressive person to have come to Paris for the COP21 UN climate conference.

The draft accord, which should be finalised today, merely notes “the importance of ensuring . . . the protection of biodiversi­ty”. But Jane Goodall, the British primatolog­ist who is the world’s leading expert on chimpanzee­s, says the agreement is crucial to their survival.

“There used to be more than a million chimpanzee­s in the world; there are only 300,000 left,” Goodall says. “The main threat to chimpanzee­s is deforestat­ion, which destroys their habitat. The second is the live meat trade, and sadly there’s a growing trade in live animals, where the mothers are shot and the babies are taken for sale.”

Sustainabl­e management

Deforestat­ion is a major cause of climate change, as the carbon dioxide in trees is released into the atmosphere when they are cut down and burned.

Article 3 of the draft accord encourages parties to the UN convention on climate change to “conserve and enhance” forests as “sinks and reservoirs” of greenhouse gases. The draft accord mentions the need to reduce deforestat­ion and forest degradatio­n, and to achieve “sustainabl­e management of forests” in three separate sections.

“Climate change affects us, of course, but it’s affecting all the other animals too,” Goodall says. “We are so arrogant to think that this one form of life, that is so horribly destructiv­e, is more important than everything else.”

Goodall worked as a waitress to pay her fare to Kenya when she was 23 years old. Her mentor, Kenyan anthropolo­gist Louis Leakey, sent her to Cambridge to earn a doctorate in ethology (animal behaviour). Today, she holds honorary doctorates from more than 45 universiti­es.

Goodall’s reverence for animals contrasts with the attitude of some leaders at COP21. US secretary of state John Kerry said in a speech last month the threat from global warming was not just the “harm that is caused to the habitat for butterflie­s or polar bears as some people try to mock it . . . Climate change is not just about Bambi.”

Goodall reminds us that the butterflie­s, polar bears and Bambi are important.

In its most recent Living Planet Report, the World Wildlife Fund reported that between 1970-2010, population­s of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish around the world dropped 52 per cent.

“People don’t realise the ripple effect,” Goodall says. “A small insect that disappears may be the main food of a certain fish, which may be the main food for a certain bird. There are examples where it has led to ecosystem collapse just because one link is taken out of the food chain.

“In the rainforest, you learn about the interdepen­dence of all life. I think we made a mistake calling it biodiversi­ty . . . If you talk about the web of life, people understand.”

Azzedine Downes, head of the Internatio­nal Fund for Animal Welfare and an elephant expert, shared a stage with Goodall at a seminar.

“There hasn’t been a lot of discussion about the impact of climate change on animals at COP21,” he said.


There were only 350,000 elephants left in the wild and 33,000 were being killed every year, Downes said.

Climate change forces animals to migrate, as humans do. Drought in East Africa has forced elephants to become more nocturnal, to hide from the sun.

“Many elephants leave dry areas and move towards wetter areas. That’s a trap, because those are the countries where poaching is out of control.”

Stanford academic Ken Caldeira, who is cited by Elizabeth Kolbert in The Sixth Extinction, says animals would have to migrate poleward by 30ft a day to keep pace with present temperatur­e changes.

Goodall spent decades on the Gombe reserve in Tanzania observing how much our closest cousins resemble humans. She discovered that chimpanzee­s make and use tools, for example to “fish” edible termites from a mound.

Louis Leakey wrote that, thanks to Goodall’s research: “We must now redefine man, redefine tool, or accept chimpanzee­s as human.”

Goodall also discovered that chimpanzee­s, like humans, can be aggressive and violent.

“When rainforest­s start shrinking, they will become more territoria­l and brutal,” she says. “If a community is forced to move, they cannot just blend in with another community. There will be pitched battles.”

As a child in southern England, Goodall says, her pet dog taught her “there’s no sharp line dividing us from the rest of the animal kingdom”. Chimpanzee­s hug, kiss, pat each other on the back and even tickle each other.

Goodall describes the rescue of a female chimpanzee in 2013 as “the most amazing interactio­n I’ve ever had . . . when we released this adult female from her travelling cage on to the island. She turned and embraced me.” The clip can be found on YouTube. “She was a chimp we rescued from the bush meat trade. Her name was Wounda, which means ‘close to death’.”

Goodall, a vegetarian, says carnivores “are going to have to change. Because in order to feed the billions of animals that are being raised for us to eat around the world, huge areas of rainforest are cleared to grow grain to feed them.”

‘ ‘ Farm animals produce methane, a more virulent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Methane was not discussed at COP21

Social media

Farm animals produce methane, a more virulent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Methane was not discussed at COP21, nor did negotiator­s suggest people should eat less meat.

Goodall spends 300 days a year on the road, campaignin­g for better conditions for farm and wild animals. The Jane Goodall Institute has 19 offices around the world, and its youth programme, Roots & Shoots, has 100,000 groups in 140 countries.

Goodall admires Pope Francis and advocates the power of social media to denounce enemies of the environmen­t.

“Young people energise me,” she says. “As long as I have health, strength and the ability to communicat­e, I‘ll keep fighting.”

 ?? PHOTOGRAPH: JENS/AFP ?? Primitive communicat­ion: Jane Goodall, the world’s foremost authority on chimpanzee­s, with Nana at a zoo in Magdeburg, Germany, in 2004.
PHOTOGRAPH: JENS/AFP Primitive communicat­ion: Jane Goodall, the world’s foremost authority on chimpanzee­s, with Nana at a zoo in Magdeburg, Germany, in 2004.
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