Goodall visits the U of C to share vision

A warm, welcoming chimpanzee call is not a common sound in the urban jungle but on Oct. 24, that is exactly what was heard in the Jubilee Auditorium.

Hosted in part by the University of Calgary faculty of arts, Jane Goodall came to town on tour to commemorate the historical moment on July 14, 1960 when she first set foot in what is now Gombe National Park.

Goodall is one of the most influential primatologists and certainly the most famous. Her research has illuminated several aspects of chimpanzee behaviour including altruism and tool use, traits that were previously thought to be solely human characteristics.

Goodall now travels 300 days out of the year to bring awareness to conservation issues and protection of endangered species.

“The tragedy is that these chimpanzees have taught us so much about our own position in relation to the animal kingdom, that there is no sharp line dividing us from the others,” said Goodall on the threatened status of chimpanzees.

In 1977, the Jane Goodall Institute was established in the United States to help protect chimpanzees and their habitats. While many of their campaigns have been successful, Goodall noted that much of the deforestation of chimpanzee habitat was due to desperate farmers trying to make a living.

“The question became, ‘How can we even try to preserve these famous chimpanzees if the people living around are struggling to survive?’ ” said Goodall.

In response, Goodall launched the TACARE program, a play on the words “take care,” in 1994. TACARE aims to improve the lives of those who lived around Gombe National Park through micro-credit, alternative farming methods, health care, education and sustainable development projects run by local Tanzanians. The program has been hugely successful and is being replicated in other parts of Africa.

Now, much of the deforestation around Gombe has been reversed and communities in the area set aside forests and for conservation to create a buffer zone around the park and start a forest corridor and help improve the chimpanzees’ ability to reach other groups, increasing genetic diversity.

Goodall’s legacy in long-term research of primates is also being carried on at the U of C.

“Here at the University of Calgary we have the best program for the study of non-human primates and one of the finest in North America,” said U of C anthropology department head Mary Pavelka. “Every year we take undergraduate students to the forests of Africa and central America so that they actually get to experience primate research first hand.”

The U of C anthropology department boasts four major long-term primate study sites. The longest study has been on cebus monkeys in Central America for over 30 years. Studies on colobus monkeys in Ghana, howler and spider monkeys in Belize and lemurs in Madagascar have all been running for over 10 years.

“All of our studies aim to make direct contributions to primate conservation,” said Pavelka. “Our research and teaching in the anthropology department is intrinsically and irrevocably connected to the work of Dr. Goodall and would hardly be possible without her living legacy.”

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.