Jane Goodall on how she made her dream of living with chimpanzees come true

Isabelle MacNeil
Story by Isabelle MacNeil and CBC Kids News • 2019-04-23 07:00

CBC Kids News contributor Isabelle MacNeil interviewed the famous environmentalist

Jane Goodall had a dream of living with animals in the wild.

That was more than 80 years ago, when women didn’t do these sorts of things.

A woman crouches in a forest and reaches her arm out to a small chimpanzee.

Jane Goodall was 26 when she embarked on her long-term chimpanzee study in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. (JGI U.S./National Geographic)

But Goodall worked hard and took risks to achieve her dream.

By the time she was in her 20s, she was working in Africa, alongside a famous anthropologist and paleontologist named Louis Leakey.

Eventually, Goodall would study chimpanzees in the wild in Gombe Stream National Park, in Tanzania.

Her mom was her biggest role model.

Her mom told her that “if you really want this, then you have to work for it.”

Today, Goodall is 85 years old and travels the world speaking about her work with chimps and the importance of taking care of our planet.

I had the opportunity to meet Goodall before her speech called Reasons for Hope in Halifax on April 9.

Isabelle MacNeil interviews Jane Goodall in Halifax before her Reasons for Hope presentation on April 9. (Sabrina Fabian/CBC)

Her early work

She quickly learned that it wouldn’t be easy.

“Unfortunately when I first went, they just ran away from me,” she told me when I asked her about seeing the chimps for the first time.

Remembering her mother’s words, Goodall didn’t give up.

A woman and a chimp make the same facial expression.

Jane Goodall with an orphaned chimpanzee in Kenya in 1996. (Michael Neugebauer)

“It took a long time before they were habituated.”

After years of work, she discovered how chimpanzees and humans are very similar. They use tools to get food and they show love and affection toward one another.

Helping the planet

But after being in Gombe for many years, she also saw all the deforestation around her, she said was caused by the growing population.

“We have so polluted and harmed our planet,” said Goodall.

She would start in Tanzania and work her way around the world, delivering her message.

A woman stands with a microphone. A stuffed animal chimp sits on a table beside her.

Jane Goodall speaks in Germany in 2017. She brings her travelling companion ‘Mr. H,’ a stuffed toy chimpanzee, everywhere with her, including on her recent trip to Halifax. (Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

“Every single one of us makes an impact on our environment every day,” she said. “What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

Roots and Shoots

In 1991, Goodall founded the Roots and Shoots program.

Its aim is to carry out small campaigns to make an impact on our planet by helping people, animals or the environment.

The Roots and Shoots participants at this school in Scarborough, Ont., focused on projects that entailed growing food on school grounds and learning about sustainable farming practices. (JGI Canada)

Today the program exists in 50 countries around the world, including Canada.

Goodall says that empowering young people to make a positive change by contributing to their future and the future of our planet is important.

Her message to me

Goodall taught me that if everyone in our world does one thing to make an impact on our environment for the better, then our world will become a better place.

She also shared a personal message with me that is the same one that inspired her so long ago.

At the end of the interview, Goodall signed Isabelle’s book with the message ‘Follow your dreams.’ (Isabelle MacNeil)

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About the Contributor

Isabelle MacNeil
Isabelle MacNeil
CBC Kids News Contributor
Isabelle MacNeil is a creative and ambitious Grade 10 student from Dartmouth N.S. with a love for soccer, volleyball, acting and business. Isabelle has been having so much fun working as a contributor for CBC Kids News since September 2018. Isabelle loves reporting stories and hopes to inspire others as a positive role model and believes that giving kids a voice is more important than ever.

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