Jane Goodall on 'Monkey Kingdom' Feature Film4:56
Famed primatologist Jane Goodall and Dr. M. Sanyan discuss Disneynature's new film "Monkey Kingdom." Photo: Disneynature
Well into her ninth decade, the world’s most famous primate expert has every right to slow down, but Dr Jane Goodall shows no signs of her 84 years of age.
The world-renowned naturalist — considered the world’s foremost expert in chimpanzees — still spends about 300 days of the year on the road.
“I hate the travelling,” she tells www.yya1n.com.cn. But as a crusader in arguably the most important fight of her storied career, she doesn’t see much choice in the matter.
“I’m going to keep fighting the forces of evil that are destroying the planet,” she says.
Those evil forces she’s talking about? The “corruption” she says exists in all countries around the world, including Australia, where governments side with the interest of big business to the detriment of the environment, resulting in the overexploitation of natural resources and the destruction of wildlife habitats.
“In so many cases governments are subsidising or helping oil, mining and gas companies, for example … they’re getting support while those companies trying to promote clean, green energy are attacked,” she says.
Dr Goodall points to the palm oil industry as an example of where capitalist interests have run roughshod over less powerful rights holders with devastating consequences.
Palm oil is the most widely produced edible oil in the world and is an ingredient in around 50 per cent of products on Australian supermarket shelves. We import approximately 130,000 tonnes of palm oil every year mainly from Malaysia and Indonesia, but the industry has come under widespread criticism for links to issues including rampant deforestation, habitat degradation, climate change, animal cruelty and indigenous rights abuses.
“It is destroying the old forests in Asia and spreading into Africa,” Dr Goodall says, and is considered the single largest threat to orang-utan populations.
Few, if any, have a better understanding of the trials and tribulations that face the world’s primate and other animal populations.
In 1960, 26-year-old Jane Goodall arrived on the shore of Lake Tanganyika in East Africa to study the area’s wild chimpanzee population. For such a young woman to venture off into a foreign wilderness by herself to study the local wildlife was unheard of. But her research was quickly known around the world.
In 1960, she observed two chimps stripping leaves off twigs in order to make tools for fishing termites from a nest. It was a groundbreaking moment for scientific study of our closest animal relatives, as until that moment researchers thought that only humans were capable of making and using tools.
Perhaps the only other naturalist with a public profile as large as Dr Goodall is David Attenborough who has consistently warned governments they must do more to address climate change.
“If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon,” he told world leaders in December.
It’s a dire message that Dr Goodall says must be heeded before it’s too late.
“I’ve stood in Greenland and seen the ice melting, even in winter. I’ve seen island nations have to be evacuated because of the rising level of oceans,” she says.
“I’ve been in places where droughts are now so common that livestock are having to be killed. I’ve been in places devastated by floods.
“I’ve seen the results of more frequent and more violent hurricanes, tornadoes and typhoons. It’s happening all the time.
“Everywhere I go, people say the weather isn’t predictable like it used to be.”
But Dr Goodall, who is due to return to Australia for a speaking tour in May, has a positive message for those who are intent on preserving the planet as best we can, and it starts with simple everyday decisions.
“Yes, we’re facing very dark grim times, but what we have to realise is that each one of us as an individual matters, each one of us has a role to play even if we don’t know what it is,” she says.
As consumers, the accumulative effect of the thousands of small choices we make in our lives adds up to have a real environmental impact.
“Each one of us makes an impact on the planet every single day. And we have a choice as to what kind of impact we make,” Dr Goodall says.
“What do we buy, where does it come from, does it result in the cruelty of animals, is it made by child slave labour?”
These are the questions she hopes to remind Australian audiences to ask themselves in May.
By the time she arrives on our shores, Dr Goodall will be 85. Most of the chimps she spent so many years living with in Africa are gone, but she still sees their infants and their offspring that she works to protect and understand.
“How much longer I can continue is not really up to me, I’ll carry on as long as I can,” Dr Goodall says