Interview with Jane Goodall

Find out what sustains the author and chimpanzee expert


| September-October 2000



Long before reality TV brought us soap operas set in remote jungles, Jane Goodall was giving viewers a glimpse inside the steamy, cliquish, and otherwise very similar world of chimpanzees. During the 1960s, Goodall's work as a brilliant observer of chimps in eastern Africa first captured the popular imagination. Today, the project she began some 40 years ago at the Gombe Stream Research Centre in Tanzania has become the longest uninterrupted field study of any animal group in the wild. Goodall's insight that chimps feel emotions and possess distinct personalities, much as humans do, has revolutionized how we view animals in general.

Now one of the most respected and beloved scientists in the world, Goodall travels almost constantly, speaking out on behalf of chimps and other threatened animals. As the roving ambassador of the Jane Goodall Institute (www.janegoodall.org), she encourages her audiences to recognize the power of individual action in protecting the environment. One of her passions, the Institute's Roots & Shoots program, encourages children to take an active role in helping animals as familiar as the birds and squirrels in their back yards. Another cause is the ChimpanZoo project, whose purpose is to study and improve the lives of the world's captive chimps.

Goodall is the author of numerous books, including Africa in My Blood: An Autobiography in Letters (Houghton Mifflin, 2000). She talked with assistant editor Karen Olson during a recent visit to Minneapolis.

What are you reading these days?

It's hard to find time to read while I'm traveling, but lately I've been jumping between two books. One is The Courage of Children by Peter Dalglish, founder of Street Kids International—who I hope to work with to help children in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The other is Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer's account of a young man who disappears in Alaska. I'm fascinated by attempts to get back to nature, both those that succeed and those that fail. It wasn't an overly long book, which I also appreciated. Big fat books are really intimidating when you're traveling all the time.

Where do you get your daily news when you travel?