Jane Goodall has been hailed by one biographer as "the woman who redefined man." Her years of field research into the lives of chimpanzees have completely changed not only our understanding of our nearest animal relatives, but of our own species as well. Among her most famous discoveries were the use of tools among wild chimpanzees (i.e.: using twigs to "fish" for termites) and that chimp troops will go to war in order to expand their territories.
Dr. Goodall doesn't spend much time out in the field these days. Instead, her years at Gombe have instilled in her a passion for chimpanzee conservation and welfare. She has been a vocal advocate for chimpanzees both in the wild in Africa and in captivity around the world, and has been especially active in promoting the welfare of chimps in laboratories.
So, probably the world's most famous wildlife biologist and a prominent critic of the way that animals are often kept in captivity - what does she have to say about zoos?
Charlotte Louise Daniels, a student at the University of Chester in the United Kingdom, decided to find out. After attending one of Dr. Goodall's lectures in Edinburgh, Ms. Daniels was given the chance to ask the primatologist what role she felt zoos had to play in the conservation of chimps and other great apes. The response:
"You know, there's a fallacy that life in the wild is wonderful and
perfect and that everybody should be out there. There's so many of the
places that I've been that chimpanzees
and gorillas there in complete uhm, you know, a lot of them live in fear
as the logging companies move in and they're caught in these snares.
They're pushed from one area to another which means another community
will attack them, and they're killed.
So on the other hand there are
zoos keeping apes and other animals that shouldn't be there because they
don't have the facilities, they don't have the money, they don't have
the know how, and they should be closed. But then what do you do with
the animals. But if you have, if you can be in a country where you can
raise the money. Where you have keepers who are dedicated and educated.
Where you have a zoo going public that kind of understands. Where you
have proper educational materials. Where you have some scientific
research going on. Where you put a percentage of your profit to helping
research conservation in the wild, then they provide a way of,
particularly children, but not only children, coming up close to an
animal they may never have the opportunity to see in the wild.
yes you can see amazing documentaries, when you're actually with an
animal in a good condition, in a good environment, you can sense its
beingness. You can look into the eyes, you can smell it, you can hear it
that's different from looking at even the best photographed animal in
film, because you know that animal is not looking at you. and I've
watched children just today when i visited the chimps here looking
through the glass making eye contact, seeing a child put its hand to the
glass and the chimpanzee the other side doing the same, that child will
never be the same. And so they do provide a very good tool for
education and that in turn will lead to people being more active about
Thanks to Charlotte Louise Daniels for posing such an important question, and, more importantly, for helping to share the answer!