Thursday - July 20, 2017
Sitting in the College of African Wildlife Management here in Mweca and Dr. Jane Goodall has walked into the assembly area with such nonchalance that no one would have noticed if they didn't announce her entrance. Her hair is incredibly gray and she looks small but that isn't an excuse to undermine her strength. Her black sunglasses look larger than her whole figure and her back is hunched - a habit probably formed from her time with the chimpanzees. With a green polo, khaki pants and a patterned scarf, she looked like one of us, ready to go work somewhere. At her feet, she has a brown bag with a black silhouette of a rooster and a small stuffed monkey pooping out the top. She places it on the table in front of her.
At the call of her name, she does not flinch. Her name is everywhere in this room, promoting the Jane Goodall Institute and Roots and Shoots.
I wonder if she ever gets tired of it. She is 84 anyway.
With her sunglasses finally off inside the building, she looks less intimidating. Think a mature version of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's.
Once a microphone is given to her, the volume needs to be turned up because she's so soft spoken. Again, that does not undermine what she has to say. Here are a few notes from the talk.
- "Many ask me, 'Jane, why are you so interested in animals?' I'm not sure. I was born with it."
- Her family once called the police because they thought she was missing but she was watching how hens make eggs.
- "My mother never crushed my curiosity."
- She spoke a lot about wanting to move to Africa but she was a girl and girls "didn't have dreams or opportunities." She finally went at 23 years old after saving the money waitressing.
- In Tanzania, she only ever saw four other people. "There were animals everywhere, no national parks."
- She met with Dr. Richard Lee and became his secretary. He wanted her to study the similarities between chimps and humans to see if "we evoluntioned together."
- At Gombi National Park, the chimps would run away from her. "These chimps would take one look at this white chimp and ran away."
- Her mother worked with her for two weeks to keep her morale up.
- The first breakthrough of her observations: seeing chimps use tools at a time when humans thought humans were the only ones who could do that. After telling Dr. Lee, he got her money and a filmmaker that would make Goodall a household name (and the future husband and father to her child.)
- David The Chimp helped was calm and not afraid of Jane. She eventually named all the chimps and calls them "individuals" during her talk.
- Chimps also greet the way we do: embrace, pat on the back, kiss
- The aggressive male chimps who tried to rise to power didn't make it too far because they were unpopular. The smarter ones and those who formed alliances amongst the chimps got to the top of the power pyramid.
- Dr. Lee then sent her to get her PhD in Cambridge two years into her observations. Her professors said she was wrong about what she saw and how she'd named them all. "Only one professor said I was right and it was my dog. You know they have personalities, you know when they're depressed or happy." Eventually, a professor helped her write her observations in a scientific way that could be taken seriously.
- "For me, being out in the rain forest and feeling the inter connectedness of it all is the best part. Every little species plays such a role. It's a spiritual experience."
- In 1986, a conference in America hosted international scientists who studied environments came together. A session on conservation shower her the deforestation occurring and how animals were sold for entertainment. "I went in as one person and came out as another."
- National Geographic and a petroleum company (with good ethics and practices) helped fund her expedition to go back to Africa to educate others about conservation. She began with a group of four Tanzanians and asked what was needed to educate the area about. The idea came about to create a buffer around Gombe so people wouldn't deforest the park.
- The Jane Goodall Institute began in 1994.
- She doesn't flinch when someone's phone goes off in the room. However, she does when she hears some of the audience members move in their seats.
- "Mother Earth is resilient."
- "Due to the new American president, were nervous about our money and donations that we fundraiser there. We know we're ready to scale up [the Jane Goodall Institute] because we know it works."
- "We haven't inherited this country from our parents, we borrowed it from our children."
- "There seems to be a disconnect between our clever brain and our compassionate hearts."
- Four problems facing earth: poverty (sometimes you can't afford to be ethical), people have more than they actually need, the finite resources can't handle growing populations and there's a lot of political corruption.
- "I don't believe we're at a point of no return."
- "Science has proven that we all have the same blood. We are all one family." (I teared up at this part.)
- Lydia in our OG group asked what can one do if your government doesn't support conservation efforts, especially President Donald Trump. "Well, I did say the aggressive chimps don't last too long."
- I had the confidence to ask her two questions: Did the professors ever apologize to you after seeing you were right? How do you feel about being a household name? "No, they continued teaching." & "I actually became a shy little girl the first time I had to talk to a crowd - 5,000 people for National Geographic because I had to explain my findings since they were funding me... I have two Janes: this one that you see here and likes to meet people. Then there's the one out there, that's the icon that everyone expects to see when they meet me. But I need her to do what I want to do. I've come to terms with it. Today at the airport, we ran into five people wanting to take pictures. I've come to the conclusion that I just give them brochures for Roots and Shoots." (My knees surprisingly got shaky and I got nervous because she didn't break eye contact with me either.)
- "Don't own a parrot."
We later learned this was her last trip to Africa due to her age. Obviously.
Taking pictures with her afterwards, I think, was an overwhelming experience for her. The students kept shoving their phones in her face for a selfie and she didn't know where to look. I'm sure all the pictures came out terrible. When the group photos happened, she'd just say "1...2...3...chimpanzee!"
After lunch in the same room as her, she was taken elsewhere because of her schedule. At least it was flexible enough to account for the two hour delay in the morning.
With Dr. Goodall out of the area, we learned a bit about the college. The Chagga tribe had tunnels built that led into the college - not a college at the time - to fight against the Maasai tribe. According to history, the Maasai would steal the Chagga's cattle so to retaliate, the tunnels were made for wives and children to stay protected with the men of the tribe would murder the Maasai. Somehow the two tribes are peaceful now.
The day was early and I obviously love fitness!!!! The whole group climbed to the beginning/end of an official Mount Kilimanjaro trail. Exhausting as it was to walk the steepness of Mweca, the view was worth it. So much vegetation and rivers. Mother Nature, man.