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SUMMIT SAYS
Charles Secrett
Shahida Jamil
Jane Goodall
Naomi Klein

Michael Dorsey
Matt Thomas
Tladi John Ndlovu
Lloyd Anderson

 

 

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Subject: Jane Goodall, primatologist and conservationist.

How did you end up working with the chimpanzees of Gombe?

As a small child in England, I had this dream of going to Africa. We didn't have any money and I was a girl, so everyone except my mother laughed at it. When I left school, there was no money for me to go to university, so I went to secretarial college and got a job.

But then, out of the blue, I was invited to Africa by a friend whose parents had moved to Kenya. There I met Louis Leakey, Richard Leakey's father, who suggested I should go and study the chimps.

Nobody did that sort of thing in those days. I was a girl and I didn't even have a degree. It took him over a year to find the money, then he couldn't get permission from the authorities. And then when I started the study, the chimps were very conservative and just ran away every time they saw me. It was only as my first six months was running out that I began to observe tool-using, tool-making, hunting and sharing of food.

That was enough to bring National Geographic in and from then on the research has been unbroken. The Gombe Stream Research Centre's study is the longest of its kind in the world.

What made your research distinctive?

Louis said I had to get a degree and that I didn't have time for a BA: I'd have to go straight for a PHD. When I got to Cambridge University, however, I was greeted with hostility. I'd given the chimpanzees names instead of numbers. I'd dared to talk about them having personalities, their ability to reason and the fact they had emotions. These were cardinal sins.

It was only as more information accumulated that my approach was accepted. Films showed the chimps' behaviour and people came to see for themselves. The study - and those famous early chimpanzees - have changed the way mainstream scientists think about animals.

So you're opposed to animal experimentation?

Yes. I believe science should and can move away from its reliance on these experiments. It's not going to happen straight away, but more and more alternatives are coming along.

We should say: what we're doing is unethical, so let's use our considerable intellect to find a solution as soon as we possibly can. Of course, intensive farming of animals is as bad as animal experimentation - if not worse.

Can pro-animal conservation be pro-people as well?

For the last 11 years, we've run the TACARE project around Gombie. It's improving the lives of the people and makes them understand we care about them too. One reason, we've never had poaching at Gombie is that local people have always helped with the research. They know the chimpanzees better than I do. They think of them as if they were humans.

What impact does tourism have?

Tourism is a two-edged sword. If you have too many people coming into an area - and the ground rules are not sufficiently in favour of animals and the environment - then tourism is a disaster.

However, I think we are beginning to see a new understanding. And tourism saved the gorillas during the war in Rwanda. Each side thought they were going to win and they wanted to protect the money they knew the gorillas bought in.

What does sustainable development mean to you?

We can't leave people in abject poverty, so we need to raise the standard of living for 80% of the world's people, while bringing it down considerably for the 20% who are destroying our natural resources.

The world's population also needs to come down. In the developing world, you tend to have more people than the land can support. The culture is changing here though. Once you had children so they could look after you - now they go away, try and find a job, fail, come home and you have to look after them.

It's all about education, of course. This is why we're concentrating on educating women, providing scholarships for girls, and offering micro-credit loans so that women can start environmentally sustainable businesses and increase their self esteem.

And what do you make of the summit?

It's horrifying to think of the waste the summit will cause. All these delegates having huge and fancy meals while so many people all around are starving. It just doesn't make sense. But I have to be here. Kofi Annan put me on his panel advising on sustainable development. So I can't avoid being here.

How do you think change will happen?

Confrontation can be counter productive. Change happens by listening and then starting a dialogue with the people who are doing something you don't believe is right.

I am often accused of jumping into bed with the enemy - we work with the timber industry, because of the trade in bush meat, and some of the oil companies. You can't force change on people. Lasting change is a series of compromises. And compromise is alright, as long your values don't change.

26 August 2002

 

 

 

[sidelights]

Profile
Who?Jane Goodall
What?primatalogist and conservationist
Where?Tanzania
 

"It's horrifying to think all these delegates having fancy meals.

It just doesnít make sense.

But I canít avoid being here."

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