Jane Morris-Goodall is an English primatologist and anthropologist who is noted as one of the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees. Through a 55-year study of the variety of interactions among wild chimpanzees, whether it is social or familial, Goodall contributed to a research that changed our modern view of chimpanzees.
Born in London, England, Goodall interest and love for wild animals was influenced by her acquirement of a life-like chimpanzee toy that was given to her as a gift. She eventually achieved a PhD in Ethology without even obtaining a bachelor’s degree, proving her talent and immense passion for the field of study. Afterwards, Goodall immersed herself in film studies and made several documentaries before arriving at her in-depth study on chimpanzees in Gombe National-Park in Tanzania.
Goodall’s research at Gombe National-Park was the catalyst to changing two long standing beliefs which were that humans were the only animals who could construct and utilize tools, and that chimpanzees were passive-vegetarians. This was achieved through intricate detailing of the social behaviour and familial interaction amongst chimpanzees. For example, Goodall would observe a chimpanzee feeding at a termite mound and she noted how he consistently placed stalks of grass into the holes in order to remove clinging termites. Not only that, chimpanzees were able to strip leaves off and modify twigs to make them more efficient, an early sign of toolmaking.
As for the second section of her research, Goodall realized that despite the peaceful behaviours that she often saw from chimpanzees, these animals also have a savage and rather aggressive nature. They systematically hunted and ate smaller primates such as colobus monkeys. Not only that, their methods were well thought out with each chimpanzee having a different role to play, as some would isolate the monkey while others went in for an ambush. The aggressive nature of chimpanzees were also seen in the violence shown within chimpanzee troops. Dominant females would resort to killing the young of other females in other to maintain their dominance and even indulge in cannibalism.
Towards the end of her research, Goodall came to the stark realization that the common belief that chimpanzees were nicer than human beings was a misconception. The rather brutal nature yet sophisticated intelligence of these animals allowed Goodall to bring to a light a different perspective on these animals. With her unique study method of naming instead of numbering her chimpanzees and taking a slow and methodical approach, Goodall’s research has surely caught the attention of many people including me and allowed us to understand the greater truth behind these chimpanzees.