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Jane Goodall by Hugo van Lawick

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Born in London, Goodall was fascinated by the natural world from an early age. At the age of 23, she moved to East Africa — at first Kenya, then Tanzania — and found work as an assistant to the great paleontologist Louis Leakey. Despite her lack of formal training, Leakey sensed her deep love of animals and encouraged her to begin a study of the chimpanzees around Gombe, Lake Tanganyika, in northern Tanzania.

In 1964, Goodall married a Dutch wildlife photographer, Baron Hugo van Lawick, who documented many of her interactions with her subjects (above photo). In them,Goodall bonds with Flint, a chimpanzee born in her camp at Gombe. Flint was the first infant chimp whose development Goodall was able to follow up close until its death in 1968. And through Hugo’s film project, People of the Forest the world came to know members of Gombe’s “F” family, namely Flo, Fifi, and Flint, as well as a number of their other immediate relations. All in all, the baron created a visual record spanning over twenty years and documenting the lives of three generations of chimpanzees.

Meanwhile, her work led her into plane crashes, malaria, hardships, rivers of crocodiles, and the worst of all, the 1975 kidnapping of four of her Cambridge/Stanford students in Tanzania by the rebels from Congo coming over the lake. Goodall agreed with the Tanzanian officials who refused to negotiate their return, noting that a ransom would only embolden the terrorists.

Finally, a release agreement was reached upon (the details vary), but upon her return to Stanford in 1975, Goodall discovered that the kidnapping incident was far from over. Critics suggested that she should have taken her students’ place, and questioned both her and her husband’s actions during the incident. Eventually, she was asked to leave the university until the controversy had passed. In Africa, her grants were denied, causing Princess Genevieve di San Faustino to intervene by creating the Jane Goodall Institute.

For details, read Jane Goodall: a biography by Meg Greene

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

September 15, 2009 at 12:11 pm

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