Me, Jane
Prestige Hong Kong|January 2018

It may be tough to condense Jane Goodall’s life story into two pages but, writes Zara Zhuang, the primatoligist wants to be best known for her conservation message.

Zara Zhuang
HOW TO WRITE a profile of the primatologist and conservationist Dame Jane Goodall?

You could start, as she often does in her presentations, by introducing herself in fluent chimpanzee panthoots and then retelling the tale of how, aged four-and-half, she hid in a hen house in the English countryside for hours, waiting to observe how eggs were laid, forcing her mother to call in the police to locate the missing child. (“Isn’t that the making of a little scientist?” she asks the audience. “Curiosity, asking questions, not getting the right answer, and deciding to find out for yourself.”) Or how, aged 10, she discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes, “fell passionately in love with the glorious lord of the jungle, and was horribly jealous because he married the wrong Jane”.

Then there’s the 23-year-old Goodall’s 21day voyage from England to East Africa in 1957, after which she became a protégé of Kenyan paleoanthropologist and archaeologist Louis Leakey. Or, perhaps, the 26 years she spent observing chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania, where she made the breakthrough discovery – on watching David Greybeard, the first chimpanzee to trust “this peculiar white ape”, breaking off twigs, stripping them of leaves and using the bare sticks to fish termites from underground nests — that the ability to create and use tools wasn’t Homo sapiens’ exclusive domain?

Where to begin indeed?

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