Aidan Asekenye, education officer of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI)-Uganda, recently presented at the 20th International Zoo and Aquarium Educators’ (IZE) Conference. The conference, which was themed “Connecting Children to Nature,” highlighted activities around the world that are educating youth about the environment and bringing them in direct contact with nature.
Today, the 23rd Congress of the International Primatological Society (IPS) convenes in Kyoto, Japan. The Congress features a special symposium honoring long-term studies at Gombe and the 50th anniversary of Dr. Goodall’s pioneering research. Titled “Fifty Years of Primate Research at Gombe National Park, Tanzania,” the symposium highlights the wealth of scientific discovery that has emerged from the original research pioneered by Dr. Goodall and from the collection of long-term data on chimpanzees and olive baboons at the park.
14th July 1960
“We really did manage to get off today. We woke at dawn ... Left about 9 and arrived about 11. The fisherman were all along the beaches frying their dagga fish. It looked as though patches of sand had been whitewashed. Above, the mountains rose up steeply behind the beaches. The slopes were thickly covered with accacia and other trees -Miombo woodland? Every so often a stream cascaded down the vallys between the ridges, with its thick fringe of forest -the home of the chimps.
At 7:40 a.m. on October 30, sitting on her Peak, Jane heard a wild commotion in the treetops below her. She heard some "angry little screams," and finally saw 1 of 3 chimpanzees grasping something pink. Two bushpigs ran around the base of the tree, and chased a smaller chimpanzee up it. Baboons tried to get close, snarling and skirmishing with the chimps. Eventually the chimp with the coveted goods moved out onto a high, bare branch and Jane could see he was holding a piece of carcass.
After a few weeks at Gombe, Jane found a perfect vantage point for watching the chimpanzees. It was a high ridge that gave her a good view in all directions. She could see the chimpanzees moving in the trees, and she could hear if they called.
What kind of animals would Jane have seen in her first weeks at Gombe? The forest to this day is home to an array of species. Baboons are seemingly ubiquitous, and red colobus monkeys are common as well.
Jane wrote a letter to her family describing some of the animals she encountered:
Jane had come to East Africa from England in 1957, to pursue a dream she'd had since she was a child: to study and write about animals in Africa. In Kenya, legendary anthropologist Louis Leakey hired her as his assistant. He was eager to organize field studies of all the great apes in the wild, for they could teach much about human evolution.
What was known about chimpanzees when Jane Goodall stepped off that boat to begin her study of the wild chimp communities living in Tanzanian forest around one of the world's longest, largest and deepest freshwater lakes, (Lake Tanganyika)?