Meet living legend Dr. Jane Goodall! She’s a primatologist whose groundbreaking chimpanzee studies in Tanzania, East Africa, changed the way we think about wildlife forever! Learn more about the super scientist in our Jane Goodall interview…

Who is Jane Goodall?

Name: Dame Jane Morris Goodall
Born: 3 April 1934
Job: Primatologist, conservationist, campaigner
Known for: Being the first person to study chimps in the wild
Important discoveries: Found that chimpanzees have emotions, use tools and eat meat

Jane Goodall interview: Jane with chimp

A primatologist is someone who studies non-human primates such as monkeys, lemurs and gorillas.

Jane Goodall interview

NGK: Hi Jane, when did you first know you wanted to work with animals?

Jane: I was ten whenI decided I wanted to go to Africa and live with wild animals and write books about them. That’s about 70 years ago now, and back then girls in England didn’t have those opportunities. So everybody laughed at me and said, “Jane, dream about something you can achieve.”
But my mother said, “If you really want something, you’re going to have to work hard, take advantage of every opportunity and never give up!”

Jane arrived in Tanzania in 1960 when she was 26 to study chimps at Gombe Stream, now a national park. She founded the Gombe Stream Research Centre in 1965.

NGK: Great advice! What’s been special about the work you’ve done?

Jane: I studied animals differently from other people. While I was in Gombe, Tanzania in the 1960s, other scientists told me I’d done my whole study of chimpanzees wrong – that I shouldn’t have given the chimps names, that they should’ve been numbered, because that’s scientific. I was told I couldn’t talk about their personalities, minds or emotions – because they thought those things were unique to humans. But luckily, I’d learned from my dog as a child, that that was rubbish!

“I helped people understand that humans are part of the animal kingdom, not separate from it!”

NGK: Sounds like having a childhood pet really helped you in your studies! What are you most proud of?

Jane: Helping people to understand – thanks to the chimps – that humans are part of the animal kingdom, not separate from it. When I started out, nobody else was studying chimps in the wild, so I was able to show how their behaviour is like ours – kissing, cuddling, holding hands, patting one another, reassurance etc.

NGK: Who was your favourite chimpanzee in Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park? 

Jane: The first one who lost his fear of me and who allowed me to follow him in the forest – David Greybeard. He’s the one who demonstrated making and using tools for the first time. He was very handsome, and he had a gentle but determined nature.

Jane Goodall interview: mother and infant chimp

NGK: What surprised you most about the chimps?

Jane: Sadly, they’re capable of a type of war – they can be violent and aggressive. But they also show love, compassion and care for others.

NGK: What memories do you have of chimps caring for each other?

Jane: I remember a little three-year-old male chimp called Mel who was orphaned after his mother died. Mel was just beginning to eat solid foods, and so he’d reached an age where he could theoretically survive without his mother. Unfortunately, his survival seemed unlikely as he didn’t have an older brother or sister to care for him – which is what would normally happen. But to our amazement, a 12-year-old unrelated male called Spindle adopted him! He carried him around on his back, rescued him from difficult situations, reached out and took him into his nest at night, shared his food with him. Spindle completely saved the little orphan’s life!
It was the first time I’d seen that with unrelated chimps. It was very moving because Spindle had just lost his own mother, so it was almost like this little infant had helped him get over his grief.

NGK: That’s amazing! What tips would you give NG Kids readers who want to have a wild career like yours?

Jane: You’ve got to really, really want it! You could go to university and go straight into research, but there are also lots of opportunities for volunteering or for working at one of the good zoos. Join Roots & Shoots (see below) while you’re at school and don’t give up! Keep your ears open for opportunities.

NGK: Thanks the the chimp chat, Jane!

Jane Goodall interview: Jane observing chimp

Want to be a primatologist?

STUDY: Environmental studies, zoology (the study of animal life) and geography
WATCH: National Geographic’s Jane, BBC’s Gorilla Family & Me
READ: “My Life with the Chimpanzees” by Jane Goodall and “The Watcher” by Jeanette Winter

Get involved!

Want to get into conservation? Then join Jane’s Roots & Shoots education programme! Head to rootsnshoots.org.uk and ask your teacher to sign
your school up! You can download fun environmental activities, connect
with hundreds of other schools worldwide, take part in ‘missions’ and
enter the famous Roots & Shoots Awards for the chance to meet Jane!

Main pic and Jane in red © Getty Images UK; Jane hooting © Michael Neugebauer; All others © Hugo Van Lawick / National Geographic Stock.

Did you enjoy reading our Jane Goodall interview? Let us know by leaving a comment, below!

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  • jason.l

    so sad!! and happy!

  • Geoff

    The coolest thing ever

  • jamielee

    they are very cute.

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    Cool

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  • Henry Okonkwo

    A wonderful and interesting interview .

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