The Gombe 50 Story
A Global Celebration of Jane Goodall’s Pioneering Chimpanzee Research and Inspiring Vision for Our Future
2010 marks a monumental milestone for the Jane Goodall Institute and Jane Goodall. Fifty years ago, Goodall, who is today a world-renowned primatologist, conservationist and UN Messenger of Peace, first set foot on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, in what is now Tanzania’s Gombe National Park. The chimpanzee behavioral research she pioneered there has produced a wealth of scientific discovery, and her vision has expanded into a global mission to empower people to make a difference for all living things.
When 26-year-old Jane Goodall arrived in Gombe on July 14, 1960, she had been instructed by famed anthropologist and paleontologist Dr. Louis Leakey to observe the behavior of the resident chimpanzees in order to better understand humans. Her early findings—that chimpanzees make and use tools, eat meat and engage in war-like activity—profoundly altered our understanding of what it means to be human.
The culmination of the first 20 years of the Gombe research, Dr. Goodall’s book titled The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior, is recognized as a milestone in the understanding of wild chimpanzee behavior. As a result of her original studies, researchers in many other institutions continue to carry out path-breaking analyses related to chimpanzee behavior and make new discoveries in this field.
"So much more"
Today, the Gombe research is one of the longest running studies of animals in the wild, providing extensive insights into our closest relatives’ emotions, behaviors and social structures. But Gombe represents so much more. The ongoing research and the extensive conservation work carried on there by the Institute are helping answer such compelling questions as how certain diseases are spread, how to stop forest destruction, which contributes to climate change, and how to improve the plight of women in developing countries.
The impact of the Gombe research spans the globe and covers a wide range of scientific disciplines, including human evolution, ethology, anthropology, behavioral psychology, sociology, conservation, disease transmission (including HIV-AIDS), aging and geospatial mapping.
Dr. Goodall and the Gombe research have also inspired a generation of scientists around the world, many of them women, to work not just in chimpanzee behavior but more broadly in conservation and other related fields. In the United States alone, students trained at Gombe now occupy academic positions across the country in major universities, including Harvard University, University of Minnesota, University of Southern California, University of California at Berkeley, and Duke University.
Since 1960, Gombe has been the source of:
- More than 200 scientific papers
- 35 Ph.D. theses
- More than 30 books (including the best-sellers by Dr. Goodall In the Shadow of Man in 1971, Through a Window in 1990, Reason for Hope in 1999, and a number of books for children)
- Nine films (including those produced by the National Geographic Society and Animal Planet, and an IMAX film with Science North in 2002)
- Hundreds of popular articles, secondary writings, radio and television interviews, and
- Hundreds of lecture tours and conferences
The data amassed at Gombe has informed JGI’s species and habitat conservation programs. The Institute’s community-driven conservation initiatives provide local communities the tools needed to address their basic needs and become economically stable, while managing their natural resources for the long term. JGI’s integrated approach supports projects focusing on everything from water/sanitation issues and health care to sustainable livelihoods and education—and links them to conservation objectives.
More recently, Gombe has become an example of how cutting-edge technology can enhance conservation. As part of its conservation action planning process, JGI uses state-of-the-art high-resolution satellite imagery and Geographic Information Systems to map chimpanzee habitats and plan land use with local communities, including designating deforested areas for regeneration.
Finally, Gombe is where Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, JGI’s global environmental and humanitarian youth program, flourished. Now in more than 120 countries worldwide, the program inspires youth of all ages to make positive change happen for people, animals and the environment we all share. Fifty years later, Gombe is truly impacting the next generation.