I have always been a huge admirer of the inspirational primatologist that is Dr Jane Goodall. And over the years, I have been lucky enough to meet her on several occasions after being invited to her annual Roots & Shoots ceremonies in London – one of which I was honoured with the role of presenting the prizes alongside her on stage.
So when I discovered that National Geographic had made a documentary about her using footage from her first expeditions to Gombe in Africa during the 1960s, I couldn’t have been more excited to watch it.
In it, she talks about what she saw when she looked into a chimpanzees eyes. I remember the first time I truly looked into a chimpanzees eyes. It was at the UK’s primate sanctuary, called Monkey World in Dorset. It was the most incredible experience – watching him stare back at me, analysing every part of what he saw. But I felt this deep sadness in my heart. I felt like I could burst into tears at the thought of what humans are doing to our unique planet; harming these beautiful and intelligent animals by destroying the parts of the forest that they call home.
Jane made such revolutionary discoveries during her time in Africa. To think that she was the first human to have been truly accepted by a group of wild chimpanzees, the likes of whom most probably would have never encountered a human before, was remarkable. Seeing all of the newspaper clippings, from outlets breaking her wonderful story, made me think ” wow, what a time it must have been – for her, for women, for the whole world.”
The story of Flo and Flint, albeit incredibly sad, is a prime example that animals are sentient beings. They have feelings. They care and love one another just like we humans do, and equally have the capacity to grieve for family losses.
Watching the documentary, it was incredible to see how close she became with all the animals – not just the chimpanzees. Her passion for raising awareness of the threats chimpanzees are facing in the wild is clearer than clear. Since October 1986, she hasn’t spent more than three consecutive weeks in any one place. Applauding her for her hard work and dedication would be a severe understatement.
She is an inspiration. She is a role model. She is the real-life Dr Dolittle.
Permission granted to use imagery by Jane Goodall’s R&S Awards.