Jane Goodall- ‘People are surprised I have a wicked sense of humour’
The scientist in me was evident early on. At four, desperate to know how eggs come out of chickens, I hid inside a hen house waiting to witness it. When I finally returned, Mum had called the police. I’d been missing for hours. Instead of punishing me, she listened intently to my discoveries.
I was jealous of Tarzan’s Jane as a child. Yes, I know they were fictional. But I still felt spurned he didn’t pick me.
From the age of 10, I dreamed of living with animals and writing books. In my early 20s, I travelled to Kenya. Out in the Serengeti, the palaeontologist Dr Louis Leakey was impressed with me. He offered me the opportunity to study chimpanzees like nobody had before. It was destiny.
I don’t remember my father much. War broke out when I was young, then he was gone for good. Mum, meanwhile, encouraged me to follow my dreams. On my first expedition, in today’s Tanzania, the authorities wouldn’t let a woman work solo in the wild. My mother volunteered and joined me. After four months they all agreed I was crazy enough to go it alone.
People often assume I’m stern and serious- Dr Jane Goodall PhD DBE. They’re surprised I’ve got a wicked sense of humour.
When I started out I was told animals needed numbers not names, that mind, personality and emotion were unique to humanity. To me, this was so obviously not the case. A fact anyone with a pet could attest to.
I drink a whisky every night. It’s a ritual. Mum and I used to have a small glass together at home. As I travelled more, we’d each raise a glass at our respective 7pms. It was a way to feel connected. Now I toast her up in the clouds every evening. Of course, it’s for medicinal purposes.
You can’t solve the world’s problems, so don’t try. Instead, focus on what you can do each day to leave this place a little better than you found it. We have a window of time to change this planet’s course, but it’s rapidly closing. If governments do what they say they’ll do, we still have a chance.
I haven’t cried properly since 1969. TV and film might leave me misty-eyed, but the last time I truly sobbed was when I accepted my first marriage wasn’t working. My first husband, Hugo [van Lawick, the Dutch wildlife filmmaker], had his work, so couldn’t stay at our research base in Gombe, Tanzania. I had my work, so couldn’t leave. Therefore it was over.
I regret following one chimp up a hill. Only seven years ago, I stupidly climbed a steep gravel trail, alone, with a chimp up ahead. Close to the ridge, I reached to pull myself up on a large rock, but it came free. Pressed against my chest, we rolled downwards together. Thankfully something threw me to the side. I dislocated my shoulder and cracked ribs; my face was a mess. Still, if I’d tumbled further it would have been game over.
My second husband died of cancer. Our marriage was short. I came to England to mourn, then returned to Tanzania spending days alone in the forest. Out in nature grief dissipated. Now I love to think of life after death; exploring that unknown will be my next great adventure.
Before the pandemic, I travelled 300 days a year. Slowly I’m returning to that number. I’ll be 90 in a year – who knows how long I have left? Yet there’s so much left to do. As long as my mind and body obey, I’ll keep at it.
The Book of Hope by Jane Goodall (Penguin, £10.99) is available for £9.56 from guardianbookshop.com
(News Source -Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by Times Of Nation staff and is published from a www.theguardian.com feed.)
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