Monday, March 11, 2013

Jane Goodall In Madrid

     Each week a teacher at school gives me magazines that contain weekly happenings in Madrid. So a couple of weeks ago, when I read that Jane Goodall would be speaking at the National Geographic store here in Madrid, I knew what Katie and I would be doing that Wednesday evening.
     Ms. Goodall was in Madrid to accept an award, and while she was here, she gave a talk at National Geographic, the first organization to fund her in the 1960s. During the talk, which lasted over an hour, she told the story of how she got started researching chimpanzees, her challenges and successes, and the importance of animal and environmental protection. She recounted how, with no professional experience or degree, she went to Tanzania to study chimpanzees, and quickly made discoveries that surprised experts in the field. She told of her awe the first time she saw a chimp de-leave a stick and use it as a tool by dipping it in an ant hole for a meal.
     Louis Leaky, the man who made it possible for Jane to study the chimps, also got her into Cambridge to pursue a doctorate in Ethology (the science of animal behavior). While there, her professors told her she was doing everything wrong, and were very doubtful of her observations. Upon her return to Tanzania, she did not change her methods, and one of the chimps began letting her follow him around. One day she followed him through the forest, lost him briefly, only to find him waiting for her to catch up. She then offered him a fruit, which he put down on the ground and then squeezed her hand. Jane had added a whole new dimension to science— compassion for the subject.
    Later in the talk she spoke about conservation efforts and some of her philanthropic organizations and projects. One of her programs, called Roots & Shoots, helps children in Africa and around the world by getting them involved in service projects and campaigns to help conserve the environment. Her overarching organization, the Jane Goodall Institute, is a non-profit organization designed to further conservation efforts of apes and animals.
     She ended by talking about why she was still hopeful that we could save the planet, even though so much damage has been done in recent years. Her biggest reasons were the ability of the human spirit to triumph in the face of adversity, and that it is not only for altruistic reasons that we should save the environment, but also because its destruction will have negative effects on humans as well as other animals. It was an engrossing talk, and time well spent. Here is a link to a short five minute video about her research with the chimps in Tanzania during the '60s, with some really cool footage of her interaction with the apes there. At almost 80 years old, she is still traveling around the world to further her cause, and along the way is helping not only animals and the environment, but children as well. She's all good.

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