September 18, 2000

Jane Goodall Speaks on Saving Chimpanzees

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Jane Goodall wants to save the chimpanzees of Tanzania and on Friday night she tried to get her audience in Bailey Hall to participate in the cause.

“Reason for Hope,” both the title of her lecture and book, celebrates the 40th anniversary of her start in Tanzania working for renowned anthropologist and archeologist Dr. Louis Leakey. It also marks her second visit to Cornell since her appointment as an Andrew Dickson White Professor-at-Large in 1996.

An hour-long video based on her “Reason for Hope” book preceded a question and answer session with Goodall.

Both covered her interest in science, her belief in God and spread the message that something must be done now to help the 100 chimpanzees of Gombe and the rest of the environment.

According to Goodall, the African primates are threatened by commercial hunters, industrialization and inbreeding.

“Unless we can alter this in 15 years there may be [no chimpanzees] left in the Congo basin,” Goodall said to the crowd.

However, Goodall is on a mission to make sure this does not happen. She is using the donations from the lectures to create an endowment for the Gombe chimpanzees, according to Gerri Jones, administrator for the A.D. White Professor-at-Large Program.

Goodall has been on tour across the globe since 1986 to spread her message of concern to others. In order to get more people involved in her cause and other environmental problems she founded Roots and Shoots in 1991 — a youth-orientated organization that inspires students of all ages to make a difference.

The video showed Roots and Shoots teams battling all kinds of seemingly hopeless adversities. One group of California high school students preserved a local river and raised $500,000 to build a fish hatchery and ensure the river’s longevity.

According to Goodall a lot of apathy towards the environment exists in Ivy League universities because people are often preoccupied with doing well for themselves.

But, Goodall called everyone to action: “So let’s join Roots and Shoots and see what happens when you actually do something.”

It was her time in the wild of Tanzania that motivates her to inform the world about the atrocities underway in the African wild.

“From all my time in the forest, there is this great spiritual power from which I draw strength,” Goodall said. “The more science reveals about this amazing planet the more in awe I feel. I marvel as we find these new things,” she added.

Goodall’s religious approach to nature and her crusade to save it contrasts dramatically with western scientific conventions.

According to Goodall, when she began her studies it was not acceptable to name chimpanzees. “When I got to Cambridge I was told I shouldn’t name the chimps-it wasn’t scientific … I shouldn’t describe their emotions because that was unique to humans,” Goodall said.

Not only did Goodall name the chimpanzees despite reservations, she advertised their distinct personalities.

Goodall told the crowd of one chimpanzee called Gold who is “a real tomboy … she is always anxious to go off,” Goodall said. Another named Freud, on the other hand, “is the most wonderful laid back chimp.”

Goodall kindly refers to a chimp called David Greybeard she cherished very much. “My favorite chimp took a palm nut from my hand and he very gently held my hand,” Goodall said.

Goodall’s keen and sensitive observations of chimpanzees led to important findings. Her discoveries of chimpanzees using tools, eating meat and demonstrating a range of compassionate and aggressive human-like emotions helped bridge the previous wide distance between man and the primates.

“It really is part of western science dividing us from them,” Goodall said. “The fact that chimps make and use tools let people understand how incredible chimps are.”

“We’ve been able to write the history of a community that can’t write the history for themselves. And that history is every bit just as interesting,” Goodall said.

The audience commented on her incorporation of religion and science.

“I was really interested with how much spirituality she incorporated into scientific study,” said Caitlin Sullivan ’04.

“The spiritual aspect is something that has always been missing — most scientists want to be strictly empirical. It is so real and refreshing … It does give me hope,” said Gail Barrald, Dryden Groton High School Librarian.

“The opener caught my attention,” said Jason Hopkins ’02, in reference to the false announcement made at the beginning of the lecture that Jane Goodall had a bout of malaria and was unable to attend. Jane Goodall subsequently came out on stage with her hair up and a long jacket pretending to be the fill-in associate.

“I’ve never seen a speaker fool the students. She actually had me disappointed. It was great to do a practical joke on 1,000 people,” Hopkins said.

The Cornell chapter of Roots and Shoots will have an organizational meeting on Wednesday at 5 p.m. in Sage Hall.

After Goodall’s remarks, a long line quickly formed for autographs. “Reason for Hope” along with her other books were available for sale in front of Bailey Hall.

Archived article by Lizzie Andrews