11th February is celebrated as the International Day for Women and Girls in Science, while World Wildlife Day is celebrated on the 3rd of March every year. So, I decided to celebrate both of these days in this Inspiron article on Dr Jane Goodall. (And definitely not because I have been fangirling over her ever since I learned about her in college.)
Joke apart, though, as much as forests are necessary to deal with the ongoing crisis of Climate Change, the wildlife living in those forests are essential to maintain the energy flow of the ecosystem. Taking a more humane look at the animals helps us take a more ethical stand in conservation strategies.
Getting out to Africa
Born in 1934 to a businessman and a novelist, Jane grew up in colonial-era England. She was always fascinated by nature and liked being outside her house. Upon growing up and with some encouragement from her mother, Jane set out to find a purpose. Without any college education, she travelled to Kenya and eventually met up with a Kenyan Archaeologist and Paleontologist, Louis Leaky. And then (fast-forwarding to the good part), Jane entered the field of Primatology, which was male-dominated at the time.
Chimpanzees are individuals too
She began her work in Gombe Stream National Park, observing the family and social life of Kasakela Chimpanzee. At the time, it was the norm to number the chimps. Apparently, seeing them as individual living beings would affect the researcher’s objectivity. But Jane did not know or care for this. She was the first to name the chimpanzees she was observing, names like Fifi and David Greybeard.
As a consequence of this or otherwise, she found that chimpanzees exhibit many human-like characteristics. The primates used to hug, kiss, pat each other’s backs, make tools and much more. What’s more fascinating is that all of the individuals had unique personalities. They could have and express emotions.
However, just because they can be emotional doesn’t mean that Chimpanzees don’t have a darker side. Did you know that they go to war? Apparently, these primates are closer to us humans than we thought. Sometimes, the dominant females deliberately kill the children of the other females to maintain their dominance. Now, just because this piece of information is featured in “Inspiron” doesn’t mean that I want you, my dear readers, to get inspired by this.
Jane could know all this because she used to observe these animals passionately and didn’t consider them to be “just subjects”. She dared to go against the prevailing norm, which set her apart.
This also helped her become the first and only human to be accepted into Chimpanzee society. She literally joined the troop as the lowest-ranking member and stayed there for 22 months! Ultimately, in a leadership change one generation later, she was kicked out. Now, there’s some ‘Planet of the Apes’ material.
Making a Global Impact
Although to many, her methods of naming Chimpanzees and being close to them was objectionable (haters gonna hate), her work has changed our opinion of human evolution. Today, Jane is reaching out to more people and spreading the word on behalf of Chimpanzees and the Environment. She has set up the Jane Goodall Institute and helps many young girls attain a college education. Moreover, she is a role model for other young women like me and probably you (she could be an incredible inspiration to you too, young men) who want to pursue a career in STEM.
Her story illustrates how passion for a subject or a cause can impact the world. Maybe, we can find our passions one day too.