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Jane Goodall IV: Endangered African Forest Areas

BETWEEN THE LINES Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release May 22, 2005
http://www.btlonline.org/btl052705.html

Chimpanzee Researcher Jane Goodall Supports Projects Benefiting People and Wildlife Living in Endangered African Forest Areas

Excerpt of speech by Jane Goodall, delivered at Yale University May 10 produced by Melinda Tuhus

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Jane Goodall is the internationally known chimpanzee researcher who began her work 45 years ago in the forests of Gombe in what is now Tanzania. Goodall travels around the world 300 days a year, addressing what she and other researchers have learned about animal behavior, the degradation of the environment threatening all life on Earth and growing efforts to combat environmental ills.

On May 10, Dr. Goodall spoke to an enthusiastic audience of several hundred adults and children at Yale University. She talked about her research and how her work has evolved over the decades, through the Jane Goodall Institute to support projects that directly benefit the local human population of the region in Africa where she works.

JANE GOODALL: By this time, one of the chimpanzees had begun to lose his fear of me. I named him David Graybeard ? he had this beautiful white frill of hair on his chin. And one day, just after my mother had gone, I was walking through the vegetation, and I saw this dark shape crouched over a termite mound. And that was the first time I saw this termite fishing behavior, using a piece of grass as a tool, stripping off leaves, and thus making a tool. And that was it. I sent a telegram to Louis Leakey -- no faxes or emails back then -- and told him, and because, as you heard, we were known as “man, the toolmaker.” Louis sent a telegram back saying, “Now we must redefine man, redefine tool, or accept chimpanzees as humans.” And that was really the first of the breakthroughs that would come from the research at Gombe.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Later in her talk, Goodall explained that deforestation and other environmental ills had devastated not only the chimpanzee population, but also the people who live in the forest.

JANE GOODALL: And that led to one of JGI’s programs that I’m most proud of -- it’s called TACARE, you can look it up in our website, www.janegoodall.org. It’s a very holistic program to improve the lives of humans living in the villages, these people living in desperate poverty. The program began with funds from the European Union, and we just tried it out in 12 villages, going in and asking villagers what they felt they most needed, listening to them, planning the project. Never was there more than one European; the rest were always Tanzanians, a team of skilled Tanzanians who went out into the villages and talked to the people. And this has led to a program that has at its heart tree nurseries, growing trees -- first of all those that will bring immediate profit to the people -- fruit trees, fast-growing species for timber and charcoal and so forth, then moving on to the indigenous trees; farming methods most suitable to help control and prevent the terrible soil erosion that’s taking place in these steep slopes so that sometimes, in the rains, half of a whole village is washed into the lake; methods for reclaiming over-farmed, sterile land, so that once again it can be used, working particularly with groups of women, helping to improve their self-esteem and their education, providing micro-credit opportunities. That’s the opportunity to take out tiny loans for environmentally sustainable development programs, even if you start with no money at all, it’s based on the Grameen Bank system; offering scholarships to gifted girls so they can go on to secondary schools, because most girls don’t, offering information about family planning, AIDS education and women’s rights, concentrating on women because all over the world it’s been shown that as women’s education increases, family size begins to drop. And that is desperately important in this very poor part of Tanzania, and it’s working.

So, TACARE is offering hope. Now the villages are agreeing, many of them, to stop hacking at the stumps of trees, stumps that looked so dead. And if they stop hacking at them for firewood, which they don’t need to any more because there are woodlots near the village, in five years these trees can be 20 or 30 feet high. And so little TACARE forests are springing up around many of the villages, and now 33 villages are part of this program, and other aid organizations are putting money in much greater quantity, so that we can provide fresh water and hygienic latrines and things of this sort. So our hope is that now the local people are our partners. Now they’re agreeing to let the trees grow, and our chimpanzees may be able to use leafy corridors to make contact with other small remnant groups. We don’t know if it will work, but we have to try.

My hope is perhaps simplistic, but I feel it very strongly, and there are four reasons for hope. First, it’s the young people themselves. And my second reason is this extraordinary brain of ours. You know, finally, around the world, we’re admitting that we really have messed things up, we’ve harmed the environment, and so there are all these new technologies being developed. If only we’d go out and buy them, get them, use them, we’d already be harming the environment much less, living in greater harmony.

My third reason is the resilience of nature. You all know places that we destroyed, rivers that are filthy and polluted, forest woods that are being cut down. Give them time, give them help -- sometimes we have to help them -- and things can be reversed.

Last reason for hope is what I call the indomitable human spirit, the people who tackle impossible tasks and won’t give up.

For more information on Dr. Goodall's projects, including Roots and Shoots, a program for young people now operating in 91 nations, call the Jane Goodall Institute in Silver Spring, Md. at (240) 645-4000 or visit their website at www.janegoodall.org

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Melinda Tuhus is a producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending May 27, 2005. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Melinda Tuhus and Anna Manzo.

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