Jane Goodall Moves From Jungle to City to Help Save Her Beloved Chimps
People, too, are a part of her caring projects
SILVER SPRING, MD. — In the summer of 1960, a young Englishwoman arrived on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, in Tanzania. She was then a virtual unknown, just beginning a pioneering study of wild chimpanzees that would, in time, make her the subject of National Geographic specials and a household name worldwide.
In the 38 years since, Jane Goodall has spent most of her life immersed in the remote African jungle working with her beloved chimpanzees - the longest study of any group of wild animals in history, and arguably the most famous. But encroaching civilization and a dramatic loss of chimpanzee habitat have forced her to spend more and more time away from her "jungle paradise" in an attempt to save what forest is left.
When she first arrived in Africa, 1 million to 2 million chimpanzees thrived across the lush equatorial belt. Now best estimates say only 250,000 remain in the patches of fragmented forest. Deforestation due to large-scale logging and local villagers' need for firewood is rapidly destroying the chimpanzee habitat. Poaching of chimps by hunters for trophies and meat is further eroding their numbers.
The fight to halt their loss has brought Dr. Goodall to the Washington area, where in late January she officially moved the headquarters of the institute that bears her name and assembled a savvy and experienced team to help launch her work onto a new stage. The move is just the latest, and most visible, step in the evolution of her career from isolated field work to that of international advocate for environmental issues.
Goodall says she didn't seek the notoriety of the world stage; she would have been just as happy to spend the rest of her career in the jungle with her chimpanzees. But "Dr. Jane," as she's known to her staff and friends, says the very survival of her chimps dictated that she begin taking a hand in addressing the destruction of their habitat - finding solutions to the causes of that destruction rather than just trying to relieve the symptoms.
"It came to me suddenly in a flash of light, like Paul on the road to Damascus," she says. "And from that point on I have not been more than three weeks in one place consecutively."
She quickly discovered that trying to arrest the degradation and erosion of the chimpanzee habitat depended as much on meeting the needs of the people living on the margins of the habitat as it did on meeting the needs of the chimps.
"If you want to save a species, you need to save the habitat; if you want to save the habitat, you have to bring people into the equation and look to their needs," she says. "The two cannot be separated. If all the chimpanzees are suffering and all the forests are disappearing, then people are suffering, too."
Initially, Goodall worked locally, working with the 30 or so villages around Gombe National Park, her main research area. Through the Jane Goodall Institute, she began teaching community-based conservation and environmental education, and established natural-resource management projects.
Today, through one project called TACARE (Tanganyika Catchment Reforestation and Education), the institute is raising the standard of living of local residents by planting fast-growing timber for firewood, fruit trees, and vegetables, while promoting reforestation and curbing soil erosion. There are now tree nurseries in 27 of the nearby villages.
"We make use of the local people to help us in our research and give them as many jobs as we can to boost the local economy and buy what we can locally," she says. "In Congo, where our biggest sanctuary is, we have built a little school for the children. So in addition to them being glad that we're there, because we help them, they also get a chance to see what amazing beings the chimpanzees are and begin to see them as more than wild animals or a source of meat."
But Goodall found it wasn't enough to work just with the surrounding villages. She needed to educate and build support with the African central governments, to provide them with economic incentives such as ecotourism.
But she soon discovered that even that didn't go far enough - that she needed to launch her campaign on the international stage as well.
"So many of Africa's problems are linked to economic needs - sometimes greed - of the developed world," she says. "And you gradually realize that as you move out in these ever-widening circles, that it's all interlinked."
Putting her institute on stronger footing to meet a global challenge was a key factor in Goodall's decision to move its headquarters to the Washington area. She also hired William Kaschak as executive director. Mr. Kaschak has broad managerial experience, a PhD in cultural anthropology, and was a foreign service officer for the United States Agency for International Development (AID) for 23 years. In addition, he has broad Washington experience, something Goodall lacks.
"Bill Kaschak brings a lot to the table," says David Miller, executive director of the Corporate Council on Africa. "His knowledge and contacts in the development community dovetail nicely with Goodall's strengths. He's a known Washington commodity, a respected insider who can provide her with access to important people and help her stand out from the crowd seeking development dollars."
Mr. Miller's organization seeks to build working relationships between American corporations and commercial interests and their African counterparts, in an effort to expand US private sector investment in Africa. This will help open new markets for US goods and services, and empower Africa's private sector in the process.
Miller says Goodall has a rare ability to see possibilities in any situation - and is willing to explore them with an open mind.
"She sees the whole picture and works with everyone," he says. "She's not an antagonist; she challenges people and companies to do the right thing, to do the best they can, but she understands the equilibrium between the environmentalists and commercial development. She's able to work with commercial interests in order to ensure that the environment lasts"
And her timing could not be better, he says. Corporate interest in Africa is rising dramatically. In 1993, Miller's Corporate Council on Africa had three members. Now, it has grown to 170, and includes giants like Coca-Cola, General Motors, IBM, Citibank, and General Electric.
In addition to successfully straddling the environmental and business communities - and with an eye firmly on the horizon - Goodall has also established "Roots and Shoots" in schools and universities in 38 US states and 30 other countries worldwide. Its goal is to educate a new generation and empower young people to launch "constructive service" projects in their own communities through hands-on learning, global networking, and constructive action.
Phil Jones, a natural-resource management specialist with US AID's Africa Bureau, says Goodall is leaving no stone unturned in her efforts to save the environment. "The amazing thing is that this woman, who spent most of her adult life in the remote jungle with chimpanzees, should have such a clear vision for the 21st century," he says. "Some scientists just study one thing and that's their life, but she sees and understands it all ... and on top of that has the people skills to become one of the most effective spokespersons for the environment the world has right now."