Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall

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British primatologist Jane Goodall spent almost half-a-century studying the wild chimpanzees of Gombe National Park in Tanzania. Her ground-breaking discoveries have contributed much of what we know about the behavior of these primates. She also established the Jane Goodall Institute to protect chimpanzees and their habitats. The renowned scientist is making a difference in the lives of animals and people.

Jane Goodall always knew she wanted to work with animals. At the age of 11, she told her friends and family that she was going to go to Africa, to live with animals and write books about them.

While everyone around her laughed at the prospect, Goodall says her mother supported her.

"She would say, 'If you really want something, you work hard, you take advantage of opportunity, you never give up; you find a way."

Goodall found a way. In 1960, at the age of 26, she arrived in Africa where she started what would become the longest running study of the wild chimpanzees of the Gombe Stream Game Reserve in Tanzania.

For five decades, her groundbreaking research has produced much of what we know about their behavior.

One of Jane Goodall's most important discoveries was that chimpanzees have the ability to make and use tools.

"It was thought that only humans did this and that this set us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom," she said.

Goodall's love of these primates inspired her to establish the Jane Goodall Institute, which has been protecting chimpanzees, and their habitats, since 1977.

But due to increasing habitat loss and poaching, chimpanzee populations continue to decline. 

So in 1994, the Jane Goodall Institute started TACARE, a program that helps local villagers develop economic alternatives to poaching, by providing microcredit loans for small businesses and scholarships for girls.

"Because the villagers understand that we care about them as well as the chimpanzees, it's beginning to come around," she added.

Taking conservation a step further, Goodall created Roots & Shoots, an education program that helps young people around the world become active in their communities.

"Basically, every group chooses three kinds of projects to make the world a better place - one to help people, one to help animals and one to help the environment that we all share," continued Goodall.

At 75, Jane Goodall's childhood dreams have come full circle. Her ground breaking work has changed the field of primatology, and her conservation and development programs have improved the lives of some 600,000 people worldwide.  

She travels more than 300 days a year, promoting her message of hope and reminding people that regardless of one's age, and no matter how small the contribution, everyone should do their part to make the world a better place.