Jane Goodall wants people to know: animals matter, they have feelings, and they have personalities, minds and emotions. They feel joy, sadness, fear, and of course pain.
When asked: "Given a week-long break, what would you like to do?"
"Stay in the Gombe forests," answered Jane Goodall, the well-known chimpanzee researcher.
More than 40 years ago, a 26-year-old Jane Goodall arrived on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in East Africa to study the area's chimpanzee population. Although it was unheard of for a woman to venture into the wilds of the African forest, the trip meant the fulfilment of her childhood dream.
At first, the Gombe chimpanzees fled whenever they saw Jane. But she persisted, watching from a distance with binoculars, and gradually the chimpanzees allowed her closer. She even gave the Gombe chimpanzees names.
In her first year at Gombe, Jane observed chimpanzees hunting and eating bushpigs and other animals, disproving theories that chimpanzees were primarily vegetarians and fruit eaters who only occasionally supplemented their diet with insects and small rodents.
"Yes, I miss the forest. Some of the most important discoveries that I made were that chimpanzees are toolmakers, have a sophisticated social culture, and are able to communicate non-verbally, by kissing, embracing, and holding hands," recalled Goodall. "Family life is very important to the chimpanzee, where they display love and affection, support, compassion, altruism, and friendship. They are also capable of violent behaviour and primitive warfare."
In her speech to the public in Beijing on December 4, Jane told people the Chimpanzees in Africa are endangered. When she began the research in 1960 there were approximately 7 million chimpanzees, but today only about 150,000 remain. Even at Gombe, the habitat outside the National Park has been destroyed and the chimpanzees who once lived there have disappeared.
"We have a wonderful team of researchers and field staff, mostly Tanzanian, who are attempting to improve the situation for the chimpanzees," said an optimistic Goodall.
Because of her hectic schedule, Jane can only get to visit the chimpanzees twice a year. She spends much of her time lecturing, sharing her message of hope for the future and encouraging young people to make a difference in their world, as well as fundraising.
"Now we really need more funding, more offices and staff, and of course more volunteers," Jane said.
The good news for her is there are more and more "Roots and Shoots" children's environmental groups each time she visits China. The first Roots & Shoots group was set up at the Western Academy of Beijing in 1994. Now there are between 300 and 400 groups in China.
The Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) of China was also formed in 1998. Both Roots and Shoots and JGI are set up for wildlife research, education and conservation as well as providing ongoing support for field research on chimpanzees in the wild.
It seems that during all her eight visits to China, the personable environmentalist would like to stay with the children. She hopes to encourage them to "believe in their strength to make a difference and constantly think about the effects of their actions."
"Our hope for the future is in their hands, and it is very important to inspire them to work for a better world," Jane said.
Squeezing her precious time, Jane Goodall still keeps up her hobby of writing. She has written and published numerous books, but the most notable ones are In The Shadow of Man, Through A Window, My Life With the Chimpanzees, Reason for Hope and Harvest for Hope. She has also wrote many children's books. The book she's working on now is entitled: Animals Rescued From the Brink of Extinction.
"At times I have felt lonely or tired or helpless, but friends always give me strength. I know that I am doing the right thing. And I feel a great spiritual power all around from which I get my strength."
Find out more about Roots & Shoots or the Jane Goodall Institute at: www.jgichina.org
(China Daily December 19, 2005)