I don’t think Dr Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace needs any introduction, as her reputation precedes her. I met her few times in the last few years, always during the Roots & Shoots Awards ceremony in London, surrounded by children and hugging her favourite (and famous) soft chimp toy. Considering her career and achievements, one might expect a certain aloofness— which would be more than justified. Well, nothing could be further from the truth.
Not only is the twinkle in her eye and mischievous smile stronger than ever, but what drives her to this day is her desire for contact with people and conversations in order to promote her own message on behalf of nature and animals. Before we started this interview, I flippantly commented on the fact that she must have been happy not to be travelling for a while as Covid-19 has put all of us on hold in one place. Well… I should have known better as, even from our Zoom screen, she looked as if I was living on Mars: “I can’t wait to go back on the road! I miss travelling and people so much!” There you go. Excerpts from our conversation:
Livia Firth: Hi Jane! So lovely to see you, you look so well!
Jane Goodall: Thank you!
LF: I wanted to ask you—what is happening on the project on the ground now in Africa because of Covid-19?
JG: Chimp Eden (in South Africa) and Tchimpounga (in the Republic of Congo) are all right because you can keep the people isolated with the chimps. Anybody who comes in has to be tested, so it’s not too threatening. But Gombe (in Tanzania) is completely different. It doesn’t have a fence and there are thousands and thousands of people in poor villages living around. The number of people who can go into the field are reduced, they go out once or twice a week just to check on where the chimps are. But it’s creeping closer to (the town of) Kigoma, so we’ve got a big campaign to educate the villagers and deliver masks and conduct tests. I mean, we are terrified the chimps can catch it too. It’s really difficult—you just have to keep fingers crossed.
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