By Brett Kessler
Green Right Now
This week marks the 50th anniversary of Jane Goodall’s landmark chimpanzee research, which she began in the Gombe region of Tanzania on July 14, 1960.
Her findings have inspired a host of books and films – including Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe – and have made Goodall an icon among conservationists. She is the head of the Jane Goodall Institute, founded in 1977 to raise awareness about and help protect great apes, which today are among the most threatened species in the world. There are fewer than 200,000 chimpanzees left in the wild, with about 250 in U.S. zoos, according to The National Primate Research Center. The chimpanzees have been declining as they’ve lost habitat to deforestation caused by agriculture and logging. They’ve also lost food-producing habitat to climate change and fragmentation by roadways, according to the NPRC.
The Jane Goodall Institute is addressing habitat loss through Roots and Shoots, a network of youth-led conservation projects operating in 110 countries across the globe.
The research Goodall began in Gombe has become one of the most comprehensive studies of animals in the wild ever recorded. Its impact can be seen across a variety of disciplines, from sociology to anthropology to evolutionary biology. What began as one woman’s quest to observe man’s closest relative has transformed into a global initiative to protect the planet and all its creatures.
“Half a century of amazing discoveries have helped us redefine our place in the natural world,” Goodall said, reflecting on her legacy. “And most amazing of all is knowing how much more the chimpanzees have to teach us. I look forward to moving into the next half century.”
A new documentary on Goodall and her work, entitled Jane’s Journey, will be released in theaters later this year.
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