Jane Goodall On Life Among Chimpanzees

34:27 minutes

An older woman wearing a pink shirt and sunglasses looks out to the right against a blurry green background.
Jane Goodall in Sashegy, Budapest, in 2019. Credit: Shutterstock

Few living scientists are as iconic as Dr. Jane Goodall. The legendary primatologist spent decades working with chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park. More recently, Goodall has devoted her time to advocating for conservation, not just in Africa, but worldwide.

Ira spoke with Goodall in 2002, after she had published her book The Ten Trusts: What We Must Do to Care for the Animals, and an IMAX film about her work with chimpanzees had just been released.

Segment Guests

Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall, DBE, is a founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and is a UN Messenger of Peace.

Segment Transcript

IRA FLATOW: This is Science Friday. I’m Ira Flatow. Holidays are always a good time to remember special occasions.

And one of those special times on this show was a conversation I had with Jane Goodall back in 2002. Dr. Goodall had just published her book, The 10 Trusts, What We Must Do to Care for the Animals, and an IMAX film about her work with chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park had just been released. Here’s that conversation. The reason for– let’s start with your book first, The 10 Trusts. Why The 10 Trusts?

JANE GOODALL: It’s the 10 trusts that we should have made with the environment, with the wilderness that we have betrayed. And it’s trying to explain to people that every one of us can do something about making this world a better place for each other, but also for the animals and for the environment.

IRA FLATOW: So is this going to be the next part of your career, do you think? Have you moved away from research on the chimps now and heading in this new direction?

JANE GOODALL: Well, I haven’t been involved in the actual research since 1986, when I suddenly realized that chimpanzees were vanishing in the wild and being horribly mistreated in captivity. That was during a conference in Chicago when we brought all the chimp people from around Africa together. The research at Gombe continues. There’s a great team there. But my role, other than occasionally visiting just really for my own good, is to be sure that the money is there to ensure that the research continues and continues in the right way.

IRA FLATOW: Let’s talk a little bit about your background. Gilbert Grosvenor, Chairman of the National Geographic Society, once wrote about you in one of your books, “She was hardly the image one would project to become an old African hand. Her bush experiences were honed in the genteel English countryside.” How did you wind up with that background in Africa?

JANE GOODALL: Well, it wasn’t exactly genteel. I wouldn’t have described it like that. But animals were my passion from even before I could speak, apparently.

IRA FLATOW: Is that right?

JANE GOODALL: Mm-hmm. So I was watching earthworms in my bed when I was one and a half. And I hid for five hours in a hen house when we had the opportunity to go into the country because we lived in the town. And I hid for five hours because I was collecting the eggs, and there was the egg. Where was the hole big enough for the egg to come out? Nobody told me, so I hid.

IRA FLATOW: You wanted to watch it.

JANE GOODALL: And I watched it. And it was my first wonderful experiment. And then when I was about 10 or 11, I found the books about Tarzan of the Apes– no TV in those days, so I read the books, fell in love with Tarzan.

He’s got that wife Jane, you know, so I was terribly jealous of her. And that was when my dream started. When I grew up, I would go to Africa, live with animals and write books about them. That’s how it all began.

IRA FLATOW: And how did you fulfill that dream?

JANE GOODALL: Well, I got the opportunity when a school friend invited me to go and stay on their farm in Kenya where her parents had just bought some land. And I was working at the time with documentary film studio in London, which was a great job. Didn’t pay very much, so I quit that, went home and worked as a waitress and served people their breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner till I’d saved up enough money to buy my return fare by boat because it was cheapest in those days. So I was 23, and I said bye-bye to family, friends, and country, and off I went on this amazing adventure.

IRA FLATOW: And so somebody invited you to go? Or did you just show up on the doorstep someplace?

JANE GOODALL: No, this was a school friend.

IRA FLATOW: School friend.

JANE GOODALL: And I went to stay there. But I was taught that you didn’t sponge on people for too long, so I stayed there for a month. But we had arranged a job for me in Nairobi– a boring job, a secretarial job, but at least I would be independent. And that was when I heard about the late Louis Leakey.

And somebody said, Jane, if you’re interested in animals, you must meet Louis. So I picked up the telephone, cheeky me, and made an appointment to go and see Louis Leakey. He was then curator of the Natural History Museum in Nairobi.

IRA FLATOW: He was a wonderful gentleman, wasn’t he?

JANE GOODALL: He was amazing.

IRA FLATOW: Tell us from Louis Leakey stories.

JANE GOODALL: Well, the first time when I called, to my amazement, he answered the phone. And he said, I’m Leakey. What do you want? Which wasn’t a very auspicious beginning.

But then when I got there, he took me all around. He asked me so many questions about the animals there. And because I had done what my mother said I should do, which was, if you really want something, you work hard, you take advantage of opportunity, and you never give up.

I’d been reading about Africa. I’d spent all my lunch hours in the Natural History Museum in London learning about Africa and animals. So I think he was impressed, and he gave me the opportunity to work for him. And he took me with his wife and one other young English girl to– at that time, they did three months in the summer at the now famous Olduvai Gorge.

But that was before any human remains were found, so it was absolutely wild, untouched Africa. And typical Louis, there was never any money, so everything was on a shoestring. And the equipment mostly didn’t work, and it was a very ramshackle sort of place. And I remember when he first talked to me about going on that expedition, which was– I had all my fingers crossed– and he said, well, it’s going to depend on my wife. If she likes you, you can come. And can you imagine what it was like when I went to lunch at the house, thinking, oh, dear, what can I do to make Mary like me?

IRA FLATOW: Obviously, she did.

JANE GOODALL: Fortunately, she did, yes.

IRA FLATOW: And were you around then when he made that famous discovery?

JANE GOODALL: No, I was the year before.

IRA FLATOW: It was the year before. Oh, just missed it by that.

JANE GOODALL: Which was so lucky.

IRA FLATOW: It was lucky?

JANE GOODALL: Yes, because it was absolutely unknown. There was no formal digging up a place and marking it on a grid. It was pre all that.

So we just spent all day chipping away in the rock. And then Gillian and I were allowed out on the plains. There wasn’t a road there.

There wasn’t a trail. There was nothing. And all the animals were there– the antelopes, the zebra, the giraffes.

And then one evening, there was a rhino, which was a little bit scary. And one evening, a young male lion, two years old, totally curious, never seen anything like me and Gillian before. And he followed us for at least, well, a couple of football pitches, I should say.

IRA FLATOW: Well, you sound like you were bitten by the bug right there.

JANE GOODALL: Before I even got there. When I got there, when I got out to Olduvai, it was like being at home.

IRA FLATOW: And so then how did you find your way toward working with the chimps?

JANE GOODALL: Well, it was during that Olduvai time that Louis realized that I was the sort of person he said he’d been looking for for about 10 years, who didn’t care about hairdressing, and clothes, and parties, and boyfriends. I really wanted to be in the wild. So he made this suggestion to me.

It took him a year to get the money. I mean, who was going to give money to a young girl, a female who didn’t have a degree of any sort straight out from England? I mean, what a ridiculous idea. So I was in England, waiting, learning what I could about chimpanzees while he searched for money and eventually found a wealthy American businessman who said, OK, Louis, here you are. Here’s enough money for six months. We’ll see how she does.

IRA FLATOW: 1 you did pretty well.

JANE GOODALL: Well, it was a very, very worrying time because I got to Gombe. Again, I felt I was at home. But the chimpanzees ran away as soon as they saw me. They’re very conservative. They’d not seen a white ape before.

And I knew if that six month’s money ran out before I’d seen something really exciting, everyone would– I would have let Louis down. Well, we told you so. This is ridiculous. But fortunately, just before that time came, I saw the first observations of using and making tools. And that was the saving observation, the breakthrough.

IRA FLATOW: And suddenly, you were Louie’s girl.

JANE GOODALL: Suddenly– well, I don’t know if I was that, but at least I’d made it. And he was able to go to the National Geographic society and persuade them to put some more money in when the first six months ran out because, of course, at that time, we were defined as man, the toolmaker. That was supposed to differentiate us more than anything else from the rest of the animal kingdom.

IRA FLATOW: And you discovered that even the chimps could make tools.

JANE GOODALL: David Greybeard, bless his heart, I saw him crouched over a termite mound. I couldn’t really see properly. They were still not very relaxed in my presence, so I was hiding.

But I knew he was using a piece of grass. And a few days later, he and one of the other chimps– I could see them much better– the whole thing– putting in the grass, picking the termites off, picking a leafy twig and stripping off the leaves, which is the beginning of tool making. So that was it.

IRA FLATOW: Exciting?

JANE GOODALL: I couldn’t actually believe it. I had to see it about four times before I let Louis Leakey know. And then I sent a telegram.

We’re pre-fax era back then. And he sent back his famous comment, ha-ha. Now we must redefine man, redefine tool, or accept chimpanzees as humans.

IRA FLATOW: Incredible and interesting. You talked about the name of the chimp that you had. I guess, no one else was doing any of this stuff at that time. I mean, in terms of naming chimps, was that something that other scientists were doing, giving names to their chimps?

JANE GOODALL: No, they weren’t. And the funny thing was after a bit, Louis said– he said, Jane, you have to get a degree because otherwise, you can’t get your own money, and I won’t always be around to get money for you. But he said, we don’t have time to mess about with a BA, so you’ll have to go straight for a PhD. So he managed to persuade Cambridge in England to accept me as a PhD student.

And when I got there, it was actually a very unpleasant and hostile reception that I had. I shouldn’t have named the chimps. It wasn’t scientific. I didn’t know.

I mean, I knew nothing. I couldn’t talk about their personalities, these vivid personalities that I, by then, was beginning to know. I certainly couldn’t talk about them being capable of rational thought, which they clearly were.

And finally, worst sin of all was that I was ascribing to them emotions, like happiness, sadness, and so forth. But fortunately, one, by that time I was 27. And I wasn’t in it because I wanted a PhD.

I was there for Louis. But more importantly, perhaps, all through my childhood, I had this wonderful teacher, and that was my dog, Rusty. So I knew that animals had personalities, minds, and feelings, and, of course, they needed names.

IRA FLATOW: Quick question– when you saw the chimp taking the ants out on the stem, how did you know that was an important thing? How did you know? You had no training, right?

JANE GOODALL: I knew because just about two weeks before that, I was visited by George Schaller, who just finished his mountain gorilla study. And as we sat up on the peak, which was my lookout place from which gradually the chimps got used to me, he said, if you see tool using and hunting, those two things will make your study worthwhile. And within two weeks, I saw them both. It was quite extraordinary. And both times, it was David Greybeard.

IRA FLATOW: The same one?

JANE GOODALL: The same one.

IRA FLATOW: How long did he live for?

JANE GOODALL: David Greybeard died in ’68. There was an epidemic of some kind of pneumonia. And he wasn’t very old. He must have been about maybe 35 when he died, something like that.

IRA FLATOW: And how long should a chimp live till?

JANE GOODALL: They can live to be 60. Now, Fifi, who was a little baby when I arrived in 1960, she’s about 43 now. And she looks absolutely fine. In fact, she’s pregnant again and could have a baby this month.

IRA FLATOW: Do you say mazel tov to a chimp? I’m not sure. I get to say that, I guess, yeah. That’s terrific.

JANE GOODALL: But they can live to be 60.

IRA FLATOW: Wow. Now, I know you do wonderful chimp calls. I’m going to try to get my engineer ready for this because Jane tells me it’s pretty loud. So tell us what call you’re going to be giving.

JANE GOODALL: Well, I’m going to do the greeting, and it’s the kind of sound you’d hear if you went to Gombe, and you climbed up onto the ridge in the morning, and you listened. And if you’re lucky, you hear the chimpanzee who’s calling out, saying, here I am. It’s a wonderful day. Where are you? And [IMITATES CHIMPANZEE]

IRA FLATOW: Wow. That’s great.

JANE GOODALL: And each one has his or her own individual voice, so you know exactly who’s calling.

IRA FLATOW: So like we can tell on the phone who the chimp is, you can also tell?

JANE GOODALL: Yes, correct.

IRA FLATOW: Do chimps have dialects from different parts also?

JANE GOODALL: They actually do. Now, nobody’s done very much work on that, but my ear isn’t that good for chimp sounds. But even I can go to Uganda or into Congo and hear the chimps calling. And although there’s a lot that’s the same, you do hear different kinds of sounds.

IRA FLATOW: This is Science Friday from WNYC Studios. We’re revisiting our 2002 conversation with legendary primatologist Jane Goodall about her career working with chimpanzees.

I want to pick up on the thread you were talking about before the break about you having to get a PhD. You went back, and they were just aghast at you.

JANE GOODALL: Yeah, they were.

IRA FLATOW: This whippersnapper, this upstart.

JANE GOODALL: Yeah, I was even accused of teaching the chimps how to fish for termites, which, I mean, that would have been such a brilliant coup. [LAUGHS]

IRA FLATOW: So continue.

JANE GOODALL: Well, eventually, so The Geographic came in and provided money. And then my late ex-husband was sent by Geographic, and he got this amazing film, some of which has been blown up for the new IMAX. And it’s just amazing that that film that he took in 1961 has blown up onto this huge screen. Actually, it’s very moving for me to see that. I’m feel I’m back.

IRA FLATOW: I think that’s how I learned about you when I was young. I think that most people saw those National Geographic specials on television.

JANE GOODALL: Yes, they did. They did. A whole generations of people saw and were moved by those and got fascinated. And literally thousands of people have said, I’m doing what I do because grew up with you.

IRA FLATOW: What was the most– oh, gosh, I hate to ask this. What was the most surprising– besides your initial discovery, what has been most surprising to you?

JANE GOODALL: Well, the most surprising and shocking, really, was when, in 1970– that’s after 10 years of research– we realized that chimpanzees have a dark side just like we. I thought they were so like us, but rather nicer. And then to find that they’re capable of brutality, that they may even have a series of events not unlike primitive warfare, that they can attack members of another social group so severely that those individuals die as a result of their wounds and that infants can be killed. And that was very, very shocking.

IRA FLATOW: You’ve been in the forefront in the last few years. As you say, you gave up real field research in the late ’80s of animal rights. Tell us about that.

JANE GOODALL: I was very shocked at this conference in Chicago to see secretly filmed footage of chimpanzees in a medical research lab in cages that were 5 foot by 5 foot and totally bleak and barren, isolated, these highly social beings who are so like us in so many ways. And that was really what took me out as an advocate, took me away from pure research because I felt I owed it to the chimps. They taught me so much.

They’d given me so much. They really helped to blur the line that people saw as so sharp dividing us from the rest of the animal kingdom. And once that line is seen as blurred, once you’re prepared to admit that we’re not the only beings with personalities, minds, and feelings, then you have a new respect, not only for the chimps the other great apes, but other amazing sentient sapient beings with whom we share the planet.

IRA FLATOW: We have to take a break. And when we come back, more from our 2002 conversation with primatologist Jane Goodall. This is Science Friday.

I’m Ira Flatow, continuing our 2002 conversation with primatologist Jane Goodall about her work with chimpanzees as well as her conservation efforts. Let’s go to Sharif in Philadelphia. Hi.

AUDIENCE: How are you doing? It’s a pleasure to speak with you. I wanted to ask you two quick questions. I wanted to know if you believe there are any undiscovered large ape species and if you believe that the bonobo chimpanzee is a subspecies of the chimp or a separate species.

JANE GOODALL: OK. Well, I’ll do the second one first because that’s easy. It’s definitely another species.

It’s admitted very widely that it’s– I mean, it’s known. It’s described as another species. It’s a bonobo, not a pygmy chimpanzee– different in many, many ways.

IRA FLATOW: What a wild species that is. I mean, just incredible, rich species. The things that they do that we never thought–

JANE GOODALL: That’s right.

IRA FLATOW: –the chimps do.

JANE GOODALL: Yes, chimpanzees, bonobos, and humans genetically are equidistant. As for the other, you’re talking about Yeti, or Bigfoot, or Sasquatch.

IRA FLATOW: Is that what he’s talking about?

JANE GOODALL: Yes, he is.

IRA FLATOW: Is that the message I’m missing here?

JANE GOODALL: I think that’s the message you’re missing.

IRA FLATOW: Is that right, Sharif

AUDIENCE: Pretty much.

IRA FLATOW: [LAUGHS] I’m out of the loop. Go ahead.

JANE GOODALL: Well, now you’ll be amazed when I tell you that I’m sure that they exist.

IRA FLATOW: You are?

JANE GOODALL: Yeah, I’ve talked to so many Native Americans who’ve all described the same sounds, two who’ve seen them. I’ve probably got about, oh, 30 books that have come from different parts of the world– from China, from all over the place. And there was a little, tiny snippet in the newspaper just last week, which says that British scientists have found what they believe to be a Yeti hair and that the scientists in the Natural History Museum in London couldn’t identify it as any known animal. Now, that was just a wee bit in the newspaper. And obviously, we have to hear a little bit more about it.

IRA FLATOW: Well, in this of DNA, if you find a hair, there might be some cells on it.

JANE GOODALL: Well, there will be. And I’m sure that’s what they’ve examined, and they don’t match up. What my little tiny snippet said– they don’t match up with DNA cells from known animals– so apes.

IRA FLATOW: Did you always have this belief that they existed?

JANE GOODALL: Well, I’m a romantic, so I always wanted them to exist.

IRA FLATOW: All right, Sharif–

AUDIENCE: Thank you.

IRA FLATOW: –thanks for calling. Well, how do you go looking for them? I mean, people have been looking, right? Is that like– or is this just been, since we don’t really believe they could exist, we really haven’t really made a serious search?

JANE GOODALL: Well, there are people looking. There’s very ardent groups in Russia, and they have published a whole lot of stuff about what they’ve seen. Of course, the big criticism of all this is, where is the body? Why isn’t there a body? And I can’t answer that. And maybe they don’t exist. But I want them to, and so I– [LAUGHS]

IRA FLATOW: There are new techniques available now for researchers studying chimpanzees, and some of them are touched on in the IMAX film– FOR instance, DNA technology. Tell us how that has changed.

JANE GOODALL: Well, that’s been very exciting because the one thing we never knew for sure– although, sometimes we could guess– is which male fathered which infant. And with DNA profiling techniques, which can now be done from fecal samples– you don’t even need hairs– we now are beginning to identify the fathers. That means that we can look at the relationship between a particular adult male and an infant and find out if there’s any special behaviors which seem to indicate that, in some way, they know.

Now, we don’t know yet, but it’s fascinating. Sometimes our guess is absolutely confirmed. We found an example of incest, which is very rare. So it’s a fascinating new field for us.

IRA FLATOW: Exciting. What needs to be researched out there? It’s sort of a silly question. If I knew what we needed, I’d know where to look for it, right? I mean, what is missing from the picture?

JANE GOODALL: Well, one of the most fascinating areas for research is cultural differences between different populations across Africa, or even different neighboring communities. And of course, it’s still controversial as to whether chimpanzees can have culture. But I define it very simply as behavior that’s passed from one generation to the next through observation, imitation, and practice. And tool-using behaviors differ quite markedly across the species range in Africa.

Sometimes it’s due to different environments. But very often, it seems to be due to the young ones seeing what the older ones do. Now, we’ve just begun to skim the surface of these differences. But even as you and I are speaking, chimpanzees, along with their cultures, are being wiped out right across Africa. So from about 2 million 100 years ago to, at the very maximum, 200,000 today, and that’s more likely to be 150,000 spread over 21 countries, mostly in tiny, isolated fragments where there’s no possibility for long-term survival because the gene pools aren’t big enough.

IRA FLATOW: And they’re dying why?

JANE GOODALL: They’re dying because of habitat destruction as human populations grow. They’re caught in wire snares set for other animals, but they catch the chimps and gorillas, for that matter. And they either die of gangrene or lose a hand or foot and can’t compete very well reproductively. But the worst threat for chimps today is the commercial bushmeat trade.

And that is the hunting of animals for sale in the big towns– not subsistence hunting, which has gone on for hundreds and hundreds of years. But this has happened because the logging companies have made roads into the heart of the last great forests of the Congo basin. Hunters go along the trail. They now have transport. They shoot everything, they load it on the truck, they take it to the towns where the elite will pay more for it than chicken or goat.

IRA FLATOW: No kidding.

JANE GOODALL: And it’s not sustainable at all.

IRA FLATOW: Let’s see if we can go to the phones to someone, I’m sure, who’s dying to talk with Jane Goodall, Jenny in Pasadena Hi, Jenny.

AUDIENCE: Hi. I just wanted to thank Jane Goodall for being Jane Goodall and tell her that when I was a little girl, my mother was a feminist, and she didn’t want me to have Barbies. So she wrote to Jane Goodall and asked Jane Goodall if she could make me a Jane Goodall doll. And Jane Goodall actually wrote back or somebody who signed your name wrote back–

JANE GOODALL: No, me. That was me.

AUDIENCE: And my mother bought a Malibu Barbie, and took all the stuff from GI Joe, and got her binoculars, and made me a little chimpanzee, which is very funny-looking, and I still have it. And when I grew up, I majored in cultural anthropology because I had loved Jane Goodall so much when I was a little kid. And so that’s what got me into taking anthropology in the first place.

JANE GOODALL: Well, that’s absolutely wonderful. And sometime, I’m going to ask you, maybe you’ll donate that little doll to the Jane Goodall Institute, and we’ll auction it. And you can contribute thousands of dollars to our–

AUDIENCE: Oh, really? I would love to. I have the letter, but I don’t have the Barbie doll anymore.

IRA FLATOW: Why don’t you come out with a line of Jane Goodall dolls, Jane? You know, merchandising.

JANE GOODALL: Well, we do merchandising. I’m on a lecture tour now, which is almost the whole year. I’m on the road 300 days a year right now, raising money, raising awareness.

We do merchandising at the lectures. Book signings tend to go on for three hours of signing after a lecture. Last night, I was signing books for two hours.

IRA FLATOW: You have one run of Jane Goodall dolls. You don’t have to sign those things. Think of the money you can have for charity there for your good work.

JANE GOODALL: Well, believe you me, we are working on it. We have Institute offices now in 13 countries around the world, and there are five people from different countries actually talking about merchandising even right as we speak. And on our website janegoodall.org, there’s a whole line of this merchandise. It’s there.

IRA FLATOW: Oh. See, and here, I thought I was breaking new ground. How silly of me. Thank you, Jenny, for calling. So do you see yourself as an effective spokesperson for the environment? Now there are so few people who are like Barry Commoners , and the Paul Ehrlichs, and those people.

JANE GOODALL: I think the effectiveness– you know, I do spend a lot of time talking to young people, but also people from all walks of life and all ages. And one of the remarks that’s so often said to me after a lecture– people come up, and they say, you have re-inspired me to do my bit. You have made me feel that my own life is more worthwhile.

I feel that I’ve been just sitting, doing nothing. Now I want to do what I can. And if we can get enough people thinking that way, if we can get enough people who care to elect into power the people who also care, but politicians want to be re-elected. So until there’s a groundswell of people prepared to accept the tough decisions that may affect their purse, to some extent, then we’ll never get the right legislation.

IRA FLATOW: But do you think that people who might be tougher to reach with that message might be more inclined to invite a Jane Goodall to speak or listen to you as someone who is a, quote/unquote, a political environmentalist from a mainstream organization, maybe like Greenpeace.

JANE GOODALL: Well, I do know that when talking to people who perhaps think very differently, the only chance you have of getting them to think in a different way is to touch the heart. And if you’re strident, if you start accusing people, if you point fingers, then you immediately see the eyes glaze over, and you know that you’re not getting across. And I have to go around and think that so much of what goes on that– in my view, anyway– is a mistake is due not to any kind of criminal intent, but simply because people honestly haven’t understood.

So I feel that that’s my job. My job is to help people understand and to think about the future. I mean, just imagine what this world would be like if we went back to the old tradition of the Native Americans, who said, every major decision has to be made with the question, how will this affect our people seven generations on? Even if we could just say two generations on, even one generation on, it would be helpful.

IRA FLATOW: And with corporate and political frameworks working to the next quarter–

JANE GOODALL: Yeah, a quick buck now, and to hell with the consequences.

IRA FLATOW: Yeah. Do you miss, though, the forest? Do you miss going back to the forest?

JANE GOODALL: I try and keep the forest in me. That’s what I have to do to remain sane. But when I do go back to Gombe, it’s to be out in the forest, even without a chimpanzee, to be in that timeless world where it’s soft and where life is entwined. And you actually see the pattern of nature. And I always feel this great spiritual power, which I believe is around.

IRA FLATOW: And it must rejuvenate you.

JANE GOODALL: It does, absolutely.

IRA FLATOW: You get to see what you’re fighting for.

JANE GOODALL: Yes. And just recently, I was with Mike Fay– I don’t know if you remember Mike Fay. He walked 2,000 miles across the Congo basin to see what was there and raise awareness.

And I went with him into the Goualougo Forest, which is a 25-kilometer walk– which, for somebody used to hotel corridors and airports, is quite a walk. But it was magic. Nobody’s ever lived there, not even the pygmies, because it’s surrounded by swamps. And the chimpanzees and gorillas haven’t learned to be afraid.

And it was such a magical experience. It was only five days. But that will keep me going for a very long time. And that was when I learned about President Bongo that we were talking about just before the break. I mean, he’s understood.

He’s got the picture. He realizes that if the logging concessions go through his country, there’s not going to be any animals left. And he’s become passionate about that. And that’s enormously hopeful because maybe the other presidents in the Congo Basin will follow suit.

IRA FLATOW: What about this idea of ecotourism, which Costa Rica has been successful with and other places?

JANE GOODALL: Yes, I was just in Costa Rica. And of course, the wonderful thing about Costa Rica is that they have money for the environment and social issues because they got rid of their army. They have no military budget. It’s so magical.

I was just there talking with President Pacheco and out in the forest. And we’re now involved in the forest in Costa Rica. And I think ecotourism, if it’s done right, is definitely something that has to be. It has to be. We have to let people see for themselves this magic world so that they feel in their heart the importance of preserving it.

IRA FLATOW: I’m Ira Flatow, and this is Science Friday from WNYC Studios. In case you’re just joining us, finishing up revisiting our 2002 conversation with legendary primatologist Jane Goodall about her career working with chimpanzees. What do you want to be remembered for? Would you rather be remembered for discovering the tool-making abilities of the chimps or for your work in the environment today?

JANE GOODALL: I think I’d like to be remembered as someone who really helped people to have a little humility and realize that we are part of the animal kingdom, not separated from it. And that has done a lot. The various results from chimpanzee research has done a lot to soften scientific attitude.

So I think I’d like to be remembered for that. And then about my work for the environment, let’s wait till I’m dead and see what sort of impact I’ve had. Then, I can tell you.

IRA FLATOW: Oh, wow. We’re not we’re not looking forward to finding out.

JANE GOODALL: But I do think the Roots and Shoots program for youth– that’s something that, I believe, is tremendously important.

IRA FLATOW: Tell us a little bit more about that. What is that?

JANE GOODALL: It started in Tanzania in ’91. It’s a symbolic name. Roots make a firm foundation. Shoots seem tiny.

Together, they can break a brick wall– the brick wall, all the problems we’ve inflicted on the planet, everything– environmental, social, war, terrorism, hope. Hundreds and thousands of young people around the world can break through. So our programs, which are hands-on actions to make the world better for animals, people, environment locally– we’re now in 60 countries.

And we range from preschool through university. It’s growing really fast. We’ve got about 4,000 active groups around the world.

The span of what’s done is as broad as the imagination of youth, which is huge. And the most important message is that every individual makes a difference every day, and we have this huge power. And if we show it collectively, we can change the world just like that.

IRA FLATOW: And you think that our kids are the key.

JANE GOODALL: Kids are the key because they understand that message. They truly do. And that’s what keeps me going, traveling these 300 days all over the world and seeing, OK, in Tanzania, in America, in Canada, in Germany, in Japan, in mainland China, the children are the same.

They’ve got the shining eyes. They’re excited. They want to show me what they’ve done. They’ve made a difference, and now we’re sharing that around the world.

IRA FLATOW: And so you’re going to continue to travel?

JANE GOODALL: I have to. I have to as long as I can.

IRA FLATOW: Because?

JANE GOODALL: Because it’s making a difference. Because I can see the result of a visit like to mainland China. The minister of the environment said, Dr. Goodall, I would like your programs in our schools. And it’s changing the attitude of children to animals.

IRA FLATOW: And that’s a big place, certainly–

JANE GOODALL: One fifth of the world’s population.

IRA FLATOW: –to make a change. So in your quiet way, I mean, you sort of been a background until an IMAX movie or something comes out, but you’re still working very hard.

JANE GOODALL: Working. I mean, I’m working harder now than I ever worked. This is much harder work than crawling through the forest after the chimps.

That was just bliss– exhausting physically bliss. This is just every day. And you take it, you live it day by day. That’s the only way to get through it.

IRA FLATOW: Well, good luck to you.

JANE GOODALL: Thank you.

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Meet the Producers and Host

About Kathleen Davis

Kathleen Davis is a producer at Science Friday, which means she spends the week brainstorming, researching, and writing, typically in that order. She’s a big fan of stories related to strange animal facts and dystopian technology.

About Ira Flatow

Ira Flatow is the host and executive producer of Science FridayHis green thumb has revived many an office plant at death’s door.

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