Jane Goodall just celebrated her 80th birthday (April 3, 2014). In February, I was a spectator/participant at a pre-birthday party for her on a small island in Lake Victory (located just off the coast of Uganda). I got to sing Happy Birthday to the grande dame of primatology.
Mary Schriver recently had Goodall share her defining moments: experiences which influenced her, challenged her, and summoned her to a life-long interest and respect for chimpanzees. According to Goodall:
- At the end of WWII, I saw a photo of emaciated holocaust survivors and another showing a pile of dead bodies. Seeing those images forever changed my understanding of human nature.
- In 1956, I received an invite to go for a visit to a friend’s parent’s newly acquired farm in Kenya. That is where I heard and met Louis Leakey. It was Louis who first suggested that I should go and study chimpanzees.
- In 1960, I realized chimpanzees were using and making tools to fish for termites. At the time, it was believed that only humans used and made tools.
- Following the divorce from my first husband, I remember going to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris; Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in G Minor filled the ancient space with glorious sound just as the sun lit up the great rose window. In that moment, I realized that chance could not be responsible for it all.
- I’ll never forget how I felt after the conference “Understanding Chimpanzees” in Chicago in 1986. During the proceedings, I was utterly shocked to realize how chimpanzee numbers and African forests were declining. I was sickened by the secretly filmed video of chimpanzees in medical research laboratories.
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