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Jane Goodall chats chimpanzees, hope for the future and honouring nature

FeaturesJane Goodall chats chimpanzees, hope for the future and honouring nature

Over 1,000 people attended Dr. Jane Goodall’s “Reasons for Hope” event at the Brantford Sanderson Centre on Monday, April 8, 2024.

Goodall, who was last in Brantford in 2018, was once again brought back to the city with the help of the Sanderson Centre and the James Hillier Foundation.

Presenter Gary Chalk, a director for the James Hillier Foundation, gave a brief overview of Goodall’s work throughout the years, as well as her current mission moving forward before welcoming the guest of honour to the stage.

“Over 60 years ago, Jane Goodall first set foot on the shores of what is now today’s Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park to begin the ground-breaking study of chimpanzee behavior. Her research has transformed scientific perceptions about the relationship between humans and animals,” he said. “Today, more than six decades later, her mission has evolved and grown; It’s now a quest to inspire, empower, and motivate all of us to create a more just and sustainable planet. … So, on behalf of the Dr. James Hillier Foundation, we’re thrilled to introduce the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, and also the United Nations Messenger of Peace, to the Sanderson Centre in Branford, please welcome Dr. Jane Goodall.”

Bella Lam, Chief Executive Officer for the Jane Goodall Institute, leads a question and answer session with Dr. Jane Goodall during the “Reasons for Hope” event at the Brantford Sanderson Centre on Monday, April 8, 2024.

Goodall’s presence on stage quickly garnered a standing ovation from the full house as she stepped up to the podium to speak.

The ethologist said that with this being her first visit back to Brantford in six years, it was amazing that it landed on the same day as the total solar eclipse, noting that it was incredible to be in “one of the best places on the planet” to see the big event.

“I have to say, being here for the solar eclipse was one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” she said.

Sharing stories about bringing earthworms into her bed as a child, Goodall spoke about how she was born to love animals and that she was lucky to have had a supportive mother who encouraged her passion.

She reminisced about how her curiosity for animals wasn’t driven by television or social media like today’s generation, but by being in nature in her grandmother’s garden.

“There was a beech tree and I used to spend hours and hours up in its branches. I would spend hours watching the squirrels and the birds and when it was raining and we couldn’t be out in the garden, there were books. We couldn’t afford new books, but there was a library and one of the first books that I really loved when I was eight years old was ‘The Story of Dr. Dolittle,’” she said. “Dr. Dolittle took animals from the circus and brought them back to Africa and that was my first time feeling the importance of Africa,and releasing animals back into the wild.”

She said that she later saved whatever money she possibly could to buy the second the book that would encourage her journey, “Tarzan of the Apes” by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Bella Lam, Chief Executive Cfficer for the Jane Goodall Institute, helps sing “Happy Birthday” during the “Reasons for Hope” event at the Brantford Sanderson Centre on Monday, April 8, 2024.

Goodall said that as she began to dream about going to Africa and getting to write books about animals, people doubted and laughed at her. She said that again, it was her mother who encouraged her to follow her dreams.

“She would say to me, ‘Jane, if you want to do something like this, you’re going to have to work really hard, take advantage of every opportunity, and then, if you don’t give up, hopefully find a way,” said Goodall. “That is a message that I have now taken to young people around the world, particularly to those in disadvantaged communities. I wish mom was alive, to know how many people have said or have written to me, saying ‘Jane, I want to thank you, because you’ve told me that because you did it, I can do it too,’ and hopefully, mom is listening right now, because it’s a message being spread all over the world and it’s making such a difference.”

She reminisced about how when she was unable to afford college after high school, she elected to attend secretarial school instead and later worked as secretary at Oxford University typing and filing.

Dr. Jane Goodall cuts her birthday cake during the Jane Goodall, “Reasons for Hope” event at the Brantford Sanderson Centre on Monday, April 8, 2024.

When a friend invited her to visit their family farm in Kenya, Goodall felt like she couldn’t save up enough money as a secretary and moved home. Determined to afford the trip, she began working as a waitress at the hotel around the corner from her home and made sure that all her customers knew about her goal.

After five or six months, Goodall made her dream a reality and at age 23, she left for Africa by boat.

In Nairobi, Kenya, Goodall had a chance meeting with the famous paleoanthropologist and archaeologist, Dr. Louis Leakey, and he soon hired her to work as his secretary, bringing her along to help volunteer at the Gombe Stream Game Reserve, now the Gombe Stream National Park.

Leakey eventually felt that Goodall would be the perfect person to go and study the behaviour of chimpanzees, but he needed time to make the arrangements and raise the funding, and so she moved back to London for the time being.

She said that once the funding was confirmed she returned to the national park and immediately got to work.

Goodall quickly realized that the animals weren’t so different from humans.

“They have a compassionate, loving, and truly altruistic side,” she said.

Over 1,000 audience members attended the Jane Goodall, “Reasons for Hope” event at the Brantford Sanderson Centre on Monday, April 8, 2024.

As the talk went on, Goodall described her experiences studying chimpanzees including their behaviour, culture and interconnection with nature.

She spoke about illegal wildlife trafficking in Africa and the impact on chimpanzees, the use of chimpanzees for medical research (leading to a change in policy), as well as environmental destruction and ways to make a living without harming the environment.

Goodall also spoke about conservation efforts; how young people are now working towards addressing global issues and the resilience of nature and humans.

During the question and answer portion of the talk with Bella Lam, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the Jane Goodall Institute, a cake was brought out on stage to celebrate Goodall’s recent 90th birthday.

Together, the audience sang “Happy Birthday” to Jane, and again for her sister Judy who shares the same birthday.

Towards the end of the evening, the two shared a story and video about the release of the chimpanzee, Wounda.

Wounda, was saved from the illegal bushmeat trade after being stolen from her home and her family by poachers. After arriving at the Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center, her recovery was made possible by the centre’s caretakers and a lifesaving blood transfusion.

As the video showed Goodall embracing Wounda after being released into the wild, many audience members wiped tears from their eyes.

The talk ended with another standing ovation and for audience members like Woodstock resident Jenna Mitchell, the experience was a dream come true.

“I was so excited and it was just amazing,” said Mitchell. “It was really interesting to see how she ended up where she is now and considering she’s 90, she was honestly hilarious.”

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