Walking with the Great Apes: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Biruté Galdikas
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Three astounding women scientists have in recent years penetrated the jungles of Africa and Borneo to observe, nurture, and defend humanity's closest cousins. Jane Goodall has worked with the chimpanzees of Gombe for nearly 50 years; Diane Fossey died in 1985 defending the mountain gorillas of Rwanda; and Biruté Galdikas lives in intimate proximity to the orangutans of Borneo. All three began their work as protégées of the great Anglo-African archeologist Louis Leakey, and each spent years in the field, allowing the apes to become their familiars--and ultimately waging battles to save them from extinction in the wild.
Their combined accomplishments have been mind-blowing, as Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas forever changed how we think of our closest evolutionary relatives, of ourselves, and of how to conduct good science. From the personal to the primate, Sy Montgomery--acclaimed author of The Soul of an Octopus and The Good Good Pig--explores the science, wisdom, and living experience of three of the greatest scientists of the twentieth century.
cows and sometimes even shooting them. On the Rwandan side of the mountain, cattle herds were so concentrated, she wrote, that “many areas were reduced to dustbowls.” She felt guilty, but the cattle destroyed habitat for the gorillas and other wild animals the park was supposed to protect. Worse were the snares set by the Batwa. Many nights she stayed awake nursing a duiker or bushbuck whose leg had been mangled in a trap. Dian lived in fear that one of the gorillas would be next. The Batwa do
closest living relatives—the chimpanzee, the gorilla, and the orangutan. With this proposition he alarmed even Mary, who did not think that study of the great apes was relevant to understanding early man. But what truly confounded his colleagues at the time was his selection of the young Jane Goodall to head up this study. Jane, who had come to Africa without a job, had finagled a position at the Coryndon Museum in Nairobi, which Louis directed, and had worked with the Leakey family at
In his forty-nine days of observation in French Guinea, he was unable to study them at close range. He was forced to hide from the chimps in order to see them, and the foliage that hid him from view often obscured his view of the animals. Before leaving for Gombe, Jane had spoken with wildlife researchers in both Nairobi and London, and they all said she should not get her hopes up. The chimps would never get used to human observers. When Jane began her study, her two Tanzanian scouts located
chimps rocked in their tiny isolation chambers—22 by 22 by 24 inches. A three-year-old female, a toddler, screamed in terror. An older male, tattooed on the chest with the number 1164, mumbled silently to himself, expressionless, his lips slack. Images like these permeate Jane’s dreams. When she’s awake, they lap at the edge of her consciousness as the waves of Lake Tanganyika lick the shores of Gombe. Using the film as a basis, Jane wrote an affidavit deploring the conditions. When the
people—intuitively feel they have a relationship with animals, such as their pet dogs, and believe that this relationship is worth nurturing. Why would such a feeling for animals be so widespread if it were not natural, not normal, not true? Human behavioral scientists have come up with an explanation: the animals we have positive feelings about are “baby releasers.” The idea is that the very sight of an animal that shares certain visible characteristics of a human baby (and theorists have