Jane Goodall hugs a monkey.

All illustrations by Dave Shephard

Jane Goodall

Her work changed the way the world sees animals.

Jane Goodall couldn’t believe her eyes. It was November 1960. She was in Tanzania, a country in Africa. Goodall had arrived in what is now Gombe National Park four months earlier. She was there to study wild chimpanzees. No one had ever done that before. 

Goodall watched as a chimp she had named David Greybeard stripped the leaves from a stalk of grass and stuck it into a termite mound. The chimp then pulled the stalk from the hole and ate the termites covering it. 

“At that time, science believed that humans—and only humans—used and made tools,” Goodall explains.

Goodall’s discovery changed the way we think about chimps. For more than 60 years, Goodall has been working to make the planet a better place for all living things. 

Fascinated by Animals

Goodall was born in England in 1934. As a child, she fell in love with Africa after reading Tarzan of the Apes. She dreamed of living among the animals and writing about them. 

In 1957, Goodall met a scientist named Louis Leakey. He gave her a job as his assistant. Though Goodall didn’t have a college degree, Leakey was impressed by her knowledge of animals.

He asked Goodall if she wanted to study chimps in Tanzania. At the time, little was known about these great apes. And few people could have imagined a woman going into a forest by herself to do research. But that didn’t stop Goodall. 

Just Like Us

She took an unusual approach to studying the chimps. She didn’t observe them from afar. She got to know them as you would your neighbors.  

Over the years, Goodall made groundbreaking discoveries that showed how similar chimps are to humans. Among other things, they form long-lasting family bonds.

“So much of their behavior is like us—kissing, embracing, holding hands,” Goodall says.

Caring for the Planet

Living among chimps helped Goodall understand the threats they faced from humans. The animals were disappearing because their forest homes were being destroyed. Adults were hunted, and babies were sold as pets. In 1977, she started the Jane Goodall Institute. Its mission is to save these endangered primates and to protect the natural world.  

In 1991, the world-famous conservationist started the Roots & Shoots program. It encourages young people to  help the environment, animals, and people in need.

Now, at age 88, Goodall continues to look to the future.

“For the environment, there’s hope,” she says, “but it depends on us taking action.”

  1. The article begins with a scene from November 1960. In it, why couldn’t Goodall believe her eyes?
  2. What was unusual about the way Goodall observed chimpanzees?
  3. What is the section “Caring for the Planet” mainly about?
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