Researcher Jane Goodall: “For chimpanzees the corona is a nightmare”

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Chimpanzees do not lack enemies. Logging, mining, forest creation, the growing human population, the trade in edible wildlife and exotic pets, research and zoos that provide infamous growing conditions – all of these have shrunk the world’s chimpanzee populations by more than a million in 1900 to at least 300,000 today, according to International Union for Conservation of Nature. And if that was not enough, now the corona plague has been added to all of these factors.

“The plague is a nightmare for them, and the possibility that a deadly virus will kill even more of this endangered species is frightening to death,” said renowned chimpanzee researcher Dr. Jane Goodall in a phone call from her family home in Bournemouth, UK.

Chimpanzees have 99% of human DNA, so they are vulnerable to human disease. Although no coronary outbreaks have been reported in chimpanzees so far, human respiratory viruses are now the leading cause of death, so they are all exposed to corona as well. Pause the research of the great apes across Africa, including at the center established by Godol in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania.

This was to be a festive period for Dr. Godol, 86. Events around the world were to mark the 60th anniversary of her groundbreaking research on chimpanzees in the wild, which began on July 14, 1960. Godol, who used to skip the earth 300 days a year in lectures And meetings with leaders to promote environmental activities, devoting her lecturer now to other causes.In recent months she has devoted much of her time to trying to obtain corona masks for Tanzanian residents, raise funds for the Jane Goodall Institute’s nature conservation projects and encourage its Skype and Zoom employees.

But not all the news is bad, she is quick to add. As befits someone who used the word “hope” in the titles of three of her books, Dr. Godol struggles to find a point of light. “People see that we brought this plague upon ourselves when we ignored the scientists’ warnings,” she says. Unhygienic plant, trading in crowded markets encourages the transmission of viruses from animals to humans (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three out of four new or emerging diseases are transmitted from animals). “I think it’s a wake-up call,” she says. See already today in cities where residents breathe cleaner air and manage to see more stars.

Dr. Godol with her husband, 1973. “I came into the world to do what I do” / Photo: AP

National Geographic Gate Girl

Dr. Goodall, it seems, still does not believe that her childhood dream of writing books about wildlife in Africa has come true. “Everything fell into place in my life, did not it? It’s amazing, “she says.
As a child she was fascinated by the natural world. She researched chicks, gave names to snails, stroked worms and devoted years to her dog, Rusty. Since she had never heard of anyone living among wild creatures, her protagonists were fantastic: Dr. Doolittle, Tarzan and Mowgli the Jungle Number.

Many laughed when she announced that she intended to move to Africa. A career counselor tried to tilt her to cat and dog photography. But in the mostly female household in Bournemouth, where she lived with her mother (her parents divorced in World War II), her sister, grandmother and aunts never mocked her for the aspirations, which apparently did not suit Lady. “I had an amazing mother,” says Dr. Goodall. “She told me: If you do not give up, maybe you can find a way. I wish she was alive to know how many people said to me: Jane, I have to thank you. “Because you did it, I learned that I can too.”

Dr. Goodall’s great breakthrough was at the age of 23, when a friend invited her to visit Kenya. There she met the well-known paleontologist Luis Leakey, and despite her youth impressed him with her knowledge of African nature and her patience for seemingly boring chores. Leakey was looking for someone to research. Wild chimpanzees in the Gombi Stream Hunting Reserve in Tanganyika (now Tanzania), who hoped to shed light on the behavior of a common ancestor in the Stone Age. He liked the fact that Dr. Godol’s brain was not corrupted by “reductionist thinking” at the university (she could not fund tuition) .

When Licky raised money for research, in July 1960, she returned to Africa at the age of 26. Because the British authorities did not like the idea of ​​a young woman alone in the African bush (Tanganyika was the last stronghold of a crumbling empire), Dr. Goodall’s mother joined the journey. It turned out to be valuable in the first desperate months, when the chimpanzees kept fleeing. “She was there with a small bonfire, and she would say: You know, Jane? You learn more than you think. ”

In fact, no one knew much about chimpanzees in the wild before, nor about the way to study them, so almost everything Dr. Godol tried and knew was new. She gave names to her research topics and befriended them, distinguishing between the separate personalities of each, And fed them bananas – practices that angered critics.

She spotted a chimpanzee using grass stalks to hunt termites from their mound. This discovery – that humans are not the only ones making tools and using them – prompted the National Geographical Society to fund its research and send an adventurous Dutch film producer, Hugo van Lewick, to document its findings. His documentation yielded in 1965 an original National Geographic film by Orson Wells (Godol and Levick also married in 1964, raised a child and divorced ten years later).

Over the years Dr. Godol has found that chimpanzees also eat meat, cooperate in hunting, engage in tribal wars and lead very social lives. Some scientists dismissed these findings with questions about its methods and expertise; others mocked it and called it the “National Geographic Gate Girl.” Leakey, who felt his patronage needed a degree to take it seriously, persuaded the University of Cambridge in the UK to allow her to pursue a doctorate in ethology (animal behavior in their natural environment) without a bachelor’s degree.

Was being a woman an obstacle in this field, dominated by men? “Quite the opposite,” says Dr. Godol. Given the colonial history of Tanganyika, the fact that she was “just a girl” and not a white man helped her. Regarding the films and photographs that made her and her work famous, she is purposeful: “If my feet helped me achieve Money for what I wanted to do, so I’m grateful to them. ”

Jane Goodall in her youth. "There are animals that have survived extinction and battered areas that have returned to support nature. You can do amazing things" / צילום: Gettyimages / Anadolu Agency Jane Goodall in her youth. “Some animals survived extinction and battered areas returned to support nature. Amazing things can be done” / Photo: Gettyimages / Anadolu Agency

Hope buys high demand

Dr. Goodol had planned to dedicate her entire life to Gombi, but in the mid-1980s, following a conference where she learned about the dangers lurking for chimpanzees, she decided to change direction. “I got out of there active,” she recalls.

As part of the Jane Goodall Institute, she currently manages a collection of projects to promote sustainability, including shelters for orphaned chimpanzees, poverty reduction programs in Tanzania and the “Roots and Buds” program, aimed at young people and operating in 65 countries around the world.

But most of all Bigul is busy with the plague. Now that everything is virtual, she can deliver inspiring lectures to audiences in Europe, India and the Middle East within hours of each other. “It’s exhausting,” she admits. But her talent to convey an immediate message about the fate of nature and also to inspire a sense of hope buys her a high demand. “I see so many amazing people doing amazing things; animals that have survived extinction, areas that we have completely destroyed and can once again support nature.”

And yet, there are so many unresolved issues that she can not slow down. “I came into the world to do what I do. I just have to give my all.”

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