From a very young age, Dr. Jane loved animals and wanted to read every book she could about them. When Dr. Jane grew up, her love of animals grew and she knew she wanted to go to Africa to continue her learning. An opportunity to visit a family friend in Kenya arose, and she worked very hard as a waitress and a secretary to earn enough money to go on the trip.
There she met Dr. Louis Leakey, a famous archaeologist who studied human natural history. Dr. Leakey hired Dr. Jane and eventually decided that Dr. Jane should study chimpanzees in what is now Gombe National Park in the country of Tanzania.
As a woman, Dr. Jane couldn’t go study the chimpanzees by herself, so in 1960, Dr. Jane’s mother accompanied her on the trip. Each day, Dr. Jane hiked out to try to find the chimpanzees and observe their behavior. No one had studied them in the wild this way before. She documented many behaviors among the chimpanzees including eating, sleeping, and movement, as well as family relationships and social interactions. She also made notes about their emotions and personalities.
Among her observations, perhaps the greatest was the discovery that chimpanzees make and use tools. Her first observation of this was of a chimpanzee using a blade of grass to “fish” termites out of a mound of dirt.
As a young scientist, the other scientists didn’t respect Dr. Jane’s work at first because she had given the chimpanzees names, and discussed their personalities which scientists at the time believed only human beings could have. Dr. Jane persisted, and eventually her point of view was accepted. Today, she is known as one of the most prominent female scientists of the 20th century.
After spending nearly 30 years studying the chimpanzees in the field, Dr. Jane began traveling the world discussing chimpanzees with all kinds of audiences. During her travels, Dr. Jane soon began to realize that the number of chimpanzees around the world were quickly dwindling. She had to do something to protect them.
In 1977, Dr. Jane founded the Jane Goodall Institute to continue her research, and establish projects to help improve human communities in the countries where there are the highest concentrations of chimpanzees. Through a people-centered approach to conservation, these communities join the Jane Goodall Institute in its mission to protect chimpanzees and secure a hopeful future for them.
Also during her travels, Dr. Jane met many young people who felt apathetic about their communities and felt that their futures had been stolen. Dr. Jane agreed, but she did not want to leave these young people with the belief that they couldn’t do anything to make the world a better place. And so, Dr. Jane started the global youth program, Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots. Today with Roots & Shoots in over 100 countries, hundreds of thousands of young people are developing skills to become compassionate leaders who are engaged in the world around them and develop the behaviors and attitudes to be good stewards of the environment.
Today, Dr. Jane continues to travel 300 days a year helping every individual understand that they can make a difference in their communities.
FUN FACTS ABOUT DR. JANE:
- Dr. Jane’s real first name is Valerie.
- Dr. Jane has two favorite toys that she loves very much — Jubilee, a toy chimpanzee given to her by her father when she was three years old, and Mr. H, a toy monkey given to her by her friend Gary Hahn.
- Dr. Jane’s favorite animal is a dog, and to go with that, her favorite movie is Disney’s Lady and the Tramp.
- Dr. Jane loves eating dark chocolate and strong coffee — both organic and fair-trade of course!