Pilot Fish Trailblazer Award Nominee: Jane Goodall

It gives me great pleasure to introduce this week’s guest blogger, Jackie Cangro, who is presenting her nominee for the Pilot Fish Trailblazer Award.  As you will see in her post about Jane Goodall, Jackie is a superb writer who is passionate about animals.     

We have a choice to use the gift of our lives to make a difference. It’s up to us to decide what kind of difference we are going to make.  ~Dr. Jane Goodall

In the summer of 1960, twenty-six-year-old Jane Goodall was hiking to her favorite vantage point on a peak in Tanzania. She had been sent to this remote area known as Gombe by archaeologist Louis Leakey to study a group of wild chimpanzees. At the time, Jane had no training; she had only a notebook, binoculars, and a lot of patience.

What she didn’t know was that she was about to make a discovery that would change forever the way we see ourselves.

Jane had been there for weeks, living in a tent, an hour boat ride away from the nearest town. She started recognizing some of the chimpanzees, but they hadn’t allowed her to get very close. Then she spotted the chimp she’d named David Greybeard.

“I was following David Greybeard and I thought I’d lost him in a tangle of undergrowth. I found him sitting as though he was waiting, maybe he was. He was on his own. And I picked up this red nut and held it out on my palm. He turned his face away. I held my palm closer, and then he turned; he looked directly into my eyes. He reached out. He took it, but he didn’t want it. He dropped it, but at the same time, he very gently squeezed my fingers, which is how a chimp reassures. So there was this communication. He understood that I was acting in good faith. He didn’t want [the nut], but he wanted to reassure me that he understood. We understood each other without the use of words.”

Jane Goodall

Photo courtesy of The Jane Goodall Institute [www.janegoodall.org]

Not long after this came the breakthrough Jane was waiting for. She watched David Graybeard and another chimp named Goliath sitting next to a termite mound. They were using twigs to fish for termites, but first they stripped the leaves off so the twigs would fit into the mound. Perhaps this doesn’t sound noteworthy, given everything we now know about primate behavior, but it was groundbreaking. “It was hard for me to believe what I had seen,” Jane wrote. “It had long been thought that we were the only creatures on earth that used and made tools.”

Tool making in action! Gaia instructs her little sister how to fish for termites using the correct tool.

Some of Jane’s other discoveries:

  • Chimpanzees live in complex social groups of up to fifty adult males, females and youngsters. There is one adult male leader of the group who may stay in charge for up to ten years.
  • Chimpanzees are not solely herbivores. (They occasionally eat small mammals.)
  • Many chimpanzee communication signals such as kissing, hugging, throwing rocks, laughing, and swaggering are done in the same context as human communication.

After nearly thirty years in the forest, the time had come for Jane to shift the focus of her work. Like any good trailblazer, she realized her help was needed elsewhere to save the chimpanzees. The numbers of chimpanzees have been dropping from more than one million when she landed in Gombe to less than an estimated 150,000 today. Poaching, medical research, and a loss of habitat have made our closest living relatives an endangered species.

Jane 2

Photo courtesy of The Jane Goodall Institute [www.janegoodall.org]

These are topics that could certainly lead one to despair. Yet her unwavering optimism is contagious, and another one of the reasons I admire her. “It is the undeniable qualities of human love and compassion and self-sacrifice that give me hope for the future,” she said.

Now, at age 81, Jane travels around the world educating adults and kids alike. The Jane Goodall Institute carries on research in Gombe National Park and works with children in 130 countries. She started the Tchimpounga Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo for baby chimpanzees orphaned by poachers.

Chimpanzees are our closest living relatives. And most of what we understand about them has come from Jane Goodall. She has bridged the divide between humans and animals, changing the way we think about them—and ourselves.

We are part of the animal kingdom, not separated from it. ~Dr. Jane Goodall.

The chimpanzees give Jane two thumbs up as a trailblazer. How about you?

To learn more:

The Jane Goodall Institute

Books for adults:

Goodall, Jane. In the Shadow of Man, revised edition, Mariner Books, 2000.

Goodall, Jane, and Phillip Berman. Reason for Hope. Grand Central Books, 1999.

Books for young readers:

McDonnell, Patrick. Me…Jane. Little. Brown, 2011.

Edwards, Roberta. Who Is Jane Goodall? Grosset & Dunlap, 2012.

This is the fourth in a series of articles about forward thinkers who are helping to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. These remarkable people are helping to define the future direction of their community, country, and even our global society.   To read more about the Pilot Fish Trailblazer Awards and the nominees Dr. Fred Sanger, Paolo Soleri, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, click on the embedded links and suggest new nominees in the comments section below.  And to learn more about our guest blogger, Jackie Cangro, click on the embedded link.

39 replies »

  1. I’m so thrilled to have my nomination included for the Trailblazers Award, Patti! I love to spread the word about Jane Goodall and her work on behalf of the chimpanzees. She and her team are working tirelessly to save them in the wild. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Jackie. I’m so glad to include your “voice” and thoughts here. You write so movingly about Jane and make a wonderful case about how she has changed our view of ourselves as well as the chimpanzee. Jane’s convictions and passion have really made a difference.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi DeWets! I’m delighted to hear your thoughts about Jane and so glad she has your vote. If you think of someone else that you’d like to nominate, just let me know.


  4. Great article. I first got to know about Jane Goodall’s work in the 80s when I lived in Tanzania. Another book not mentioned is ‘Harvest for Hope” – A guide to Mindful Eating. 2006

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hi Likeitiz! I’m so glad you have enjoyed these posts about the trailblazers among us. It’s been a lot of fun tracking them down and reading more about them. If you have any suggestions for new nominees, just let me know!


  6. Terrific post! I believe Jane Goodall is one of the most important and influential persons of the late-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Her dedication to animal welfare is both heartfelt and inspirational. Terrific series too Patti-I look forward to seeing what you come up with in the future-

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jane Goodall is one of my absolute heroines. As a child I admired her, and could not stop watching the TV-programmes about her work. As a grown – up I have read a great deal about her and admire her immensely. I cannot believe that some of you here really met her! A dream!

    Liked by 1 person

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