Printer Friendly

Jane Goodall: a kinship with chimps. (Conversations).

Primatologist Jane Goodall, Ph.D., CBE and UN Messenger of Peace, needs little introduction, because her work with chimps in Tanzania is known throughout the world. Fifty years of intimate contact with these close human relatives gives her authority to speak on everything from their value systems to their ability to make music. Goodall's most recent book, written with Marc Bekoff, is The Ten Trusts (Harper San Francisco).

E: How do chimps communicate? And do they have a value system that could be defined as morality or spirituality?

Jane Goodall: Chimps have a repertoire of at least 30 sounds that mean different things and show emotions. It's not like human language, but these calls help the chimps understand what's going on. Chimps can display fear or pleasure, but they can't show complex language about things that aren't present--as in expressing the idea that there's a poacher two miles away. Chimps are capable of American sign language and use it in the right context. They can learn a few hundred signs. They have gestures and postures, which are non-verbal communication. You can watch chimps interacting and be pretty sure about what they're thinking. When they kiss, hold hands or pat each other on the back it means more or less the same thing as when humans do it.

I've seen much evidence of their morality. To give one example: a male might break up a fight. Some of them watch sunsets--that's a spiritual mind at work. They can also show altruism.

Do chimps make music?

Out in nature, they drum on tree trunks. They also exhibit a dance-like swaying from foot to foot. It's just lovely to see. Captive chimps love to paint. Their paintings clearly mean something to them. One of my favorites was when a female drew zigzags. Asked what it was, she said, "ball." It was based on a bouncing game.

In your lectures, you mention that chimps have a dual or complex nature.

Like humans, chimps have two natures. Sometimes they are pleasant and quiet and sometimes they are aggressive and get into fights. They can be dangerous. Chimps, like people, also have unique personalities.

They have many similarities to humans, including their immune systems. They're more like us than they are like gorillas. They have helped us bridge the gap between humans and the animal kingdom. Chimps share something like 98.6 percent of our DNA.

Shouldn't that make humans more compassionate toward chimps?

Oh, yes, it should. But it doesn't always work that way. There were two million chimps a hundred years ago, and now there's 150,000. They are scattered and live in small communities. Their habitat is vanishing; there's the bush meat trade (see "Wildlife on the Menu," Currents, this issue).

From your books and talks, I get the feeling that you're a vegetarian.

I became a vegetarian after reading Peter Singer's Animal Liberation. I looked at the meat in my dish and I saw fear, pain, death. Family farms are more humane, but most of that world is gone. Now there are factory farms where animals are treated horribly. Meat eating is bad for our health, bad for the environment. Chimps, by the way, aren't vegetarian; that tells you something about our origins. But we have a choice in our diet, and a realization that everything is part of the web of life. CONTACT: Jane Goodall Institute, (301)565-0086,
COPYRIGHT 2003 Earth Action Network, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Marranca, Richard
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:00WOR
Date:Mar 1, 2003
Previous Article:Rights from wrongs: a movement to grant legal protection to animals is gathering force. (Cover Story).
Next Article:Seeking sanctuary: as it begins its second hundred years, our national wildlife refuge system is in trouble.

Related Articles
From Gombe, Bombay, Wittenberg, and Williams.
Africa's vanishing apes: these forest-dwelling animals are losing their land--and their lives.
For the Love of Chimps.
Brutal Kinship.
'Greenwood Biographies' titles.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters