TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – World-class primatologist and ethologist Jane Goodall delivered an address in Taipei on Oct. 26 before a packed auditorium of several hundred, who appeared profoundly inspired and sometimes driven to tears by her heartfelt speech and witty remarks.
Born in 1934, Goodall embarked on the study of chimpanzees in Tanzania in 1960, a passion that has been developed into care for a broader spectrum of species, and the environment as a whole, that spans more than half a century.
“I came as a scientist, and left as an activist,” she recounted, describing how she was determined to fight for chimpanzees after attending a conference in 1986, where she learned the miserable life of the often abused and misunderstood, with some being lifelong encaged animals, in Africa, who are as intelligent as human beings.
A girl from a poor family who had undergone adversity when the Second World War broke out, Goodall shared with the audience how she never gave up, respecting the full support given by her mother in the quest of her lifelong passion – the love towards animals staring with chimpanzees in Gombe of Tanzania.
Jane Goodall gives a speech in Taipei on Oct. 26 (Photo by Taiwan News)
In the narrow-minded scientific world back then, she even managed to convince her professors in Cambridge University, where she was working on a doctorate in ethology, that chimpanzees have personalities and deserve to have their own names – backed by her years of animal behavior study.
The project for chimp conservation in Tanzania thrives until today, and the 84-year-old was proud to announce that the conservation center is celebrating its 60th anniversary next year.
Acknowledging the challenges facing humans from climate change, war, poverty, over-consumption, pollution, and displacement of wildlife, the pioneering anthropologist set out to launch the “Roots & Shoots” program in 1991, with a view to raising awareness and empowering youths from around the world to take action in caring for the planet we call home.
Since its inception, the “Roots & Shoots” initiative has seen over 10,000 seeds sown in more than 80 countries in the world. The youth service program serves as Goodall’s answer to those coping with lives filled with adversity -- particularly for helpless, upset, and unsympathetic young people who often find it hard to keep faith and hope.
“When nature suffers, we all suffer. When nature flourishes, we all flourish,” she said.
By inspiring youths to play a more active role caring for the environment, wildlife, and community, Goodall believes they will become a force that can shape the world and make a difference.
At a time when the planet is in peril caused by climate change and human-inflicted harm, she believes there’s still a time window for us to take action. There are five reasons for hope – young people, human intelligence, resilience of nature, social media, and the tenacity of humans -- according to Goodall.
Elaborating on the resilience of nature, she recalled how the Taiwanese government helped in the preservation of jacanas when building the high speed rail that threatened their habitat, going so far as to compensate farmers whose land was requisitioned for the relocation of the avian species. Goodall said she was also impressed at the effort by Taiwan to protect the endangered Formosan landlocked salmon and the black-faced spoonbill.
To conclude the speech, Goodall played a short clip recording what she described as one of the most amazing things that ever happened in her life. A female chimpanzee named Wounda was caught throwing her arms around Goodall for a long time, when she was released into a sanctuary site in Congo. Wounda later had a baby, who was given the name -- Hope.
During her first visit to Taiwan in 1996, Goodall noticed the obstacles encountered by the country in animal conservation. It was in May of 1998 that the Jane Goodall Institute Taiwan was established and endeavored, with the support of the government and private groups, to become the first chapter of an organization in Asia committed to protection of animals and the environment.
In support of Dr. Goodall’s devotion to wildlife protection and environmental conservation, the like-minded I-Mei Environmental Protection Foundation donated NT$1 million to the Jane Goodall Institute in 2016. The I-Mei Environmental Protection Foundation is dedicated to the protection of Taiwan’s environment and wildlife, especially endangered species; for example, the preservation of green sea turtles.
The British conservationist had also received an award by Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications in recognition of her lifelong contributions to animal conservation during her visit to the Jacana Eco-Education Reservation Park in the southern city of Tainan in 2014.
During her week-long sojourn in Taiwan, Goodall will also attend a celebration marking the 104th anniversary of Taipei Zoo, and will give a speech at the Roots & Shoots Eco-Center at Chang Jung Christian University in Tainan.
Jane Goodall gives an speech in Taipei (Photo by Taiwan News)