Monday, April 3, 2017

Jane Goodall

Dame Jane Morris Goodall DBE (born Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall, 3 April 1934), formerly Baroness Jane van Lawick-Goodall, is a British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace. Considered to be the world's foremost expert on chimpanzees, Goodall is best known for her 55-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. She is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots program, and she has worked extensively on conservation and animal welfare issues. She has served on the board of the Nonhuman Rights Project since its founding in 1996

Goodall is best known for her study of chimpanzee social and family life. She began studying the Kasakela chimpanzee community in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania, in 1960. Without collegiate training directing her research, Goodall observed things that strict scientific doctrines may have overlooked. Instead of numbering the chimpanzees she observed, she gave them names such as Fifi and David Greybeard, and observed them to have unique and individual personalities, an unconventional idea at the time. She found that, "it isn't only human beings who have personality, who are capable of rational thought and emotions like joy and sorrow." She also observed behaviours such as hugs, kisses, pats on the back, and even tickling, what we consider "human" actions.Goodall insists that these gestures are evidence of "the close, supportive, affectionate bonds that develop between family members and other individuals within a community, which can persist throughout a life span of more than 50 years."These findings suggest that similarities between humans and chimpanzees exist in more than genes alone, but can be seen in emotion, intelligence, and family and social relationships.

Goodall's research at Gombe Stream is best known to the scientific community for challenging two long-standing beliefs of the day: that only humans could construct and use tools, and that chimpanzees were vegetarians. While observing one chimpanzee feeding at a termite mound, she watched him repeatedly place stalks of grass into termite holes, then remove them from the hole covered with clinging termites, effectively “fishing” for termites. The chimps would also take twigs from trees and strip off the leaves to make the twig more effective, a form of object modification which is the rudimentary beginnings of toolmaking. Humans had long distinguished ourselves from the rest of the animal kingdom as "Man the Toolmaker". In response to Goodall's revolutionary findings, Louis Leakey wrote, "We must now redefine man, redefine tool, or accept chimpanzees as human!".

In contrast to the peaceful and affectionate behaviours she observed, Goodall also found an aggressive side of chimpanzee nature at Gombe Stream. She discovered that chimps will systematically hunt and eat smaller primates such as colobus monkeys. Goodall watched a hunting group isolate a colobus monkey high in a tree, block all possible exits, then one chimpanzee climbed up and captured and killed the colobus. The others then each took parts of the carcass, sharing with other members of the troop in response to begging behaviours. The chimps at Gombe kill and eat as much as one-third of the colobus population in the park each year. This alone was a major scientific find which challenged previous conceptions of chimpanzee diet and behaviour.

But perhaps more startling, and disturbing, was the tendency for aggression and violence within chimpanzee troops. Goodall observed dominant females deliberately killing the young of other females in the troop to maintain their dominance, sometimes going as far as cannibalism. She says of this revelation, "During the first ten years of the study I had believed  that the Gombe chimpanzees were, for the most part, rather nicer than human beings  Then suddenly we found that chimpanzees could be brutal—that they, like us, had a darker side to their nature." She described the 1974–1978 Gombe Chimpanzee War in her memoir, Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe. Her findings revolutionised contemporary knowledge of chimpanzee behaviour, and were further evidence of the social similarities between humans and chimpanzees, albeit in a much darker manner.

Goodall also set herself apart from the traditional conventions of the time by naming the animals in her studies of primates, instead of assigning each a number. Numbering was a nearly universal practice at the time, and thought to be important in the removal of one's self from the potential for emotional attachment to the subject being studied. Setting herself apart from other researchers also led her to develop a close bond with the chimpanzees and to become, to this day, the only human ever accepted into chimpanzee society. She was the lowest ranking member of a troop for a period of 22 months. Among those that Goodall named during her years in Gombe were:

David Greybeard, a grey-chinned male who first warmed up to Goodall;
Goliath, a friend of David Greybeard, originally the alpha male named for his bold nature;
Mike, who through his cunning and improvisation displaced Goliath as the alpha male;
Humphrey, a big, strong, bullysome male;
Gigi, a large, sterile female who delighted in being the "aunt" of any young chimps or humans;
Mr. McGregor, a belligerent older male;
Flo, a motherly, high-ranking female with a bulbous nose and ragged ears, and her children; Figan, Faben, Freud, Fifi, and Flint;
Frodo, Fifi's second oldest child, an aggressive male who would frequently attack Jane, and ultimately forced her to leave the troop when he became alpha male.

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