SYDNEY, NSW - JULY 14: A Chimpanzee jumps at a glass screen as primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall holds a press conference at Taronga Zoo July 14, 2006 in Sydney, Australia. Dr Goodall visited the zoo to raise awareness of the plight of wild Chimpanzees. The zoo's colony of Chimps includes several family groups, and three of the oldest Chimpanzees in zoos. (Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images)
It was a good week. Actually, it was a great week. I got to interview Jane Goodall. Oh my god, I got to interview Jane Goodall!
That's what I breathlessly exclaimed to anyone who crossed my path for the next three days. "Hey Wendy, how's it going?" Oh my god, it's going great. I got to interview Jane Goodall!
And you know what? Every one of them stopped and wanted to talk about it. There are few people walking the earth who can command that kind of respect with the drop of a name. Jane Goodall. She's an icon. A soft -spoken, slight British woman with 15 PhD's attached to her name who went into the jungles of Tanzania in the 1960s and introduced us to the complex society of chimpanzees. It was fascinating.
About once a year there would be a Jane Goodall Special. These were a highlight of my childhood. This scientist lady with her hair pulled back in a ponytail would hang out with these chimps. She told us their names and showed us their families. We saw baby monkeys clinging to their mothers. Sometimes the great big males would run by and mess up her hair. She was unflappable. In her cool British voice she would explain the whole social order of these intriguing creatures. I would sit there mesmerized. They're just like us.
This is why we love Jane Goodall. She gently opened our minds and let us come to realize that animals are not things. They are complicated living creatures with highly formed family structures who experience joy and pain and must be protected from human ignorance and arrogance. As Jane Goodall said, "I think we have a lot of humility yet to absorb. The chimps teach us clearly that we are not the only beings on the planet with minds and emotions."
I got to interview Jane Goodall. It was only for about 10 minutes prior to a news event. The Jane Goodall Institute recently relocated to Arlington, Va. Dr. Goodall was lobbying Congress to help conserve the Congo basin. It's the fourth largest rainforest on the planet. It is being sold off to nations wanting to get to the resources within. Some of the planet's most endangered species reside within that rainforest.
The amount of money needed to conserve those forests amounts to "budget dust" according to Steve Sanderson, CEO of the Wildlife Conservation Society. For example, they recently discovered 125,000 silverback gorillas deep in the forests of the Republic of Congo. This is a critically endangered species. This discovery is a blessing. The cost of protecting this newfound population: $25,000, according to Sanderson. That's all. Just $25,000.
Perhaps Jane Goodall can make lawmakers stop in their tracks. In the midst of our financial crisis, the cost to save this part of the planet ... budget dust.
When I asked her what she wanted people to remember she said: "I would ask people to remember we are part of the natural world and not separate from it ... and to think about the choices they make."
Jane Goodall is now on holiday spending two weeks in Nebraska to watch the Sandhill Crane migration on the Platte River. Millions of cranes come there to feed this time of year before migrating north to Alaska and Siberia. Goodall says it is one of the wonders of the world. So is she.