Exclusive! Jane Goodall on 'Jane's Journey'

As a new film chonicles her remarkable life, the pioneering primatologist talks about the mother who nurtured her dreams, her programs today—and her all-time favorite chimp

by Susan Toepfer • More Features Editor/Entertainment
Jane Goodall image
Photograph: Andre Zacher

J.G.: Three times! I told them, “You’re making me out to be a total drunk!” But 

that was a family tradition. Every evening we would gather with my mother and her sister and drink a tot. We called it a tot, you call it a shot. So it’s a tradition wherever I was in the world between 7 and 8 p.m., I would raise a glass and Mum would do the same. Just one little tot a day.

More: You have so much energy. What is your typical diet?

J.G: I became a vegetarian at the end of the ‘60s or early ‘70s. I read Animal Liberation and I learned about intensive farming. I was horrified, shocked; I’m even more shocked now. But I don’t really think about what I eat. I just eat what’s available. When I’m home, my sister cooks nice veggies for lunch and I have an egg in the evening and half a bit of toast in the morning. When I’m on the road, I take what I can get. People know I’m a vegetarian, so they don’t offer me a huge chunk of meat. My son is almost a vegetarian, but he eats fish. One of my grandsons became a vegetarian at 4. He announced he wasn’t going to eat meat anymore and he hasn’t since.

More: What do you think is your greatest achievement?

J.G.: Two things, really—I can’t choose one above the other. One is that through chimps I have been able to help people understand more clearly what animals are, that they do have personalities, minds and feelings. But it was the chimps who enabled me to do that. I first learned it from my dog, but people wouldn’t listen

   The second thing is starting Roots & Shoots. It’s in 131 countries now, with about 16-17,000 active groups and it’s growing all the time. We can save forests and chimps, but if we’re not being better stewards than we’ve been, there’s no point. This is the only program I’ve heard of that is completely holistic: animals, nature, humans, peace and harmony.

More: What is your top priority now?

J.G.: Raising money. We don’t have enough money for our programs. That’s distressing. There are 28 Jane Goodall Institutes around the world. I’m trying to help them raise money. Africa and Roots & Shoots, keeping the programs means raising money. I raise awareness and create opportunities.

More: How can our readers help you?

J.G:  Definitely through donations to the Jane Goodall Institute. But other than money, two things. One is practical: Try to set up a Roots & Shoots group, get one going if you can. Second, if every single person on the planet spent a little bit of time thinking of the consequences of his actions, of your choices, like what you buy. Sometimes that’s easy, sometimes it’s not. So the more knowledgeable you are about food and where it comes from, how it’s grown, the more you know about pesticides, child slave labor, about what you wear, the better choices you can make. If you meet an animal in distress, do you leave it there or try to do something to help? Do you know how to help?

   Then there are choices like public transportation, walking, bicycling, even the way you interact with people, the effect you might have on them.  We don’t do enough smiling.

To read about another woman we admire, click on our interview with Gloria Steinem.

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First Published January 18, 2012

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