Gombe 50: A Remarkable Year Commemorating A Remarkable Achievement


Jane and Mr. H celebrate Gombe 50 in the German Alps.

On July 14, 1960, Jane 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 continues to produce 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.


This month marks the end of Gombe 50, the year-long celebration commemorating Dr. Goodall’s illustrious career and the rich legacy of the groundbreaking Gombe field study.

What a year it has been!

Over the past 365 days, Jane and the work of the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) have had an enormous impact all over the globe, literally, reaching an unprecedented number of people and helping to advance the Institute’s efforts in the areas of chimpanzee protection, community-centered conservation in Africa and youth leadership.

Yesterday, July 14, 2011, Jane spent the final day of the anniversary in the spot where her dream became reality:  Gombe National Park.  As the Gombe 50 celebration draws to a close, we wanted to share some of the highlights with you.


During the Gombe 50 year, Jane was on a perpetual whirlwind as she traveled to 24 countries, including 23 cities in the United States alone.  During that time, she directly reached an estimated 31,000 people in the United States with her message of hope for our future.


The anniversary kicked off with a special concert by famed musicians Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds in Washington, D.C.  The benefit to support JGI drew nearly 5,000 attendees. 

Jane spent July 14, 2010, the first day of the anniversary, in Gombe with friends and family where she enjoyed a quiet reflection on the amazing journey of the last five decades.  In a letter she wrote at the time, Jane remarked:

This is such a very special day – exactly 50 years ago, on 14th July 1960, my mother and I landed on the shores of what was then Gombe Stream Game Reserve, in what was then Tanganyika, a British Protectorate.  And now, here I am in Gombe National Park in Tanzania.  The pebbles on the beach, and the little waves, and the water of the lake itself, have not changed much.  But so much else is different.

I climbed to the Peak. There I can absolutely recapture the wonderful feeling I had aged 26. When everything I saw was new and exciting.


Jane joins Lorenz Knauer, director of Jane’s Journey, during the film’s priemiere in Berlin, Germany.

Soon Jane was on the road again, off to Berlin, Germany, to attend the world premiere of Jane’s Journey, a feature-length documentary about her life’s work.  Jane was also present at the film’s premieres in East Hampton, New York, and Warsaw, Poland, among other places.  In addition, she personally accepted the prestigious Bambi Award, the German equivalent of the American Oscars, on behalf of the documentary.


The celebration continued as Jane made stops at the Kiwanis International Convention in Switzerland; the National Institutes of Health and World Bank in Washington, D.C.; and the Women’s Conference in California with Maria Shriver.  She presided over the presentation of the Jane Goodall Global Leadership Awards in Washington, D.C., where she recognized the National Geographic Society and actress and humanitarian Charlize Theron, among others.

Back in the United Kingdom, she hosted the Primate Society of Great Britain’s Gombe tribute conference and spoke at Sir David Attenborough’s Hope 4 Apes event at London’s Lyceum.  Particularly special for Jane was being honored at the Jane Goodall Gombe Day in her hometown of Bournemouth, England, in May 2011.



Jane accepts the “China is more beautiful because of you” Lifetime Achievement Award.

Over the past year, the honors and accolades for Jane and JGI came from all over the world.  Jane received the Order of the Merit of the Italian Republic, as well as the “China is more beautiful because of you” Lifetime Achievement Award during a ceremony broadcast on televisions across Asia.  She was also named by Poland’s Focus magazine as the greatest personality of the Planete Doc Film Festival.


Tanzania, Liberia, The Gambia and Sierra Leone released a commemorative stamp series marking the anniversary.  This is the first stamp issue in the world featuring Jane’s image.

Patrick McDonnell, award-winning author and creator of the MUTTS comic strip, marked Gombe 50 by producing a series of special strips that appeared in newspapers around the United States in conjunction with the anniversary.

Additionally, a school library in New Jersey was dedicated in Jane’s name, as was a new variety of rose in France.  And there was even a jumbotron in New York City’s Times Square broadcasting a “Text Chimp” fundraising message during the celebratory year!


The past year brought a slew of new books and special reprints in conjunction with the anniversary.  50 Years at Gombe, a commemorative picture book by Jane with the Jane Goodall Institute, was published to rave reviews and strong sales.  

Updated editions of Jane’s classic works In the Shadow of Man and Through a Window were also released just in time for Gombe 50, as were foreign editions of the best-selling Hope for Animals and Their World in China, Korea and Hungary.

The month of April brought the publication of Me…Jane, a children’s book about a young Jane Goodall, by Patrick McDonnell.  The beautifully illustrated book with an inspirational message was soon prominently featured on The New York Times list of best sellers, as well as on CNN’s American Morning.


The Gombe 50 anniversary brought good news for JGI’s programs in Africa, especially for the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center in the Republic of Congo.  Tchimpounga, which is operated by JGI, is the largest chimpanzee sanctuary in Africa.

Recently, the Congolese government ratified a decree to expand the Tchimpounga Nature Reserve where the sanctuary is located by 750 percent.  The expansion will increase the amount of key protected habitat for chimpanzees and other species from roughly 17,000 to 129,000 acres, and secure the protection of three nearby islands for additional sanctuary space. 



Jane and friends in Zanzibar plant a tree in celebration of Gombe 50.

Millions of people were made aware of the Gombe 50 anniversary due to coverage of Jane and JGI in many major media outlets.


CBS Chief Foreign Correspondent Lara Logan and a film crew traveled with Jane to Africa to produce a 60 Minutes feature.  The episode, which aired in October 2010, drew 15 million viewers, the program’s largest audience in nearly a year.

In the Republic of Congo, Jane also visited JGI’s Tchimpounga chimpanzee sanctuary with Charlize Theron to film an episode of Iconoclasts, which aired on the Sundance Channel.

National Geographic writer David Quammen interviewed Jane for a special 50th anniversary feature, which appeared in the October issue, and Jane was chosen as ABC’s World News with Diane Sawyer’s “Person of the Week” in conjunction with the story’s publication.

Other media features included: People magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Financial Times, Scientific American, Nature, Brisbane Times, Calgary Herald, CNN, C-SPAN and the BBC, among many, many others.


The growth of Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots was greatly enhanced during the Gombe 50 anniversary.  Now in more than 120 countries worldwide, the program continues to inspire youth of all ages to make positive change happen for people, animals and the environment we all share.

Roots & Shoots celebrated its 20th anniversary this year and launched an environmental service-learning curriculum, together with the Pearson Foundation.  The curriculum was rolled out through a series of teacher trainings in three of the largest public school systems in the United States—New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.

During Gombe 50, Roots & Shoots also launched a major new youth campaign, On the Edge: Hope for Animals and Their World, to raise awareness and encourage positive action on behalf of endangered species and biodiversity.  The campaign was inspired by Jane’s book Hope for Animals and Their World.

Other news of note:  Roots & Shoots members in China received a special visit from U.K. Prime Minister Cameron on the Great Wall of China as part of his visit to the Shanghai World Expo!


New friends and partners were made throughout the year, among them Duke University, which houses the Gombe research archives.

Almost every day since July 1960, someone has been watching the chimpanzees in Gombe, making careful notes of their every action from dawn to dusk.  Begun by Jane and carried forward by generations of the world's leading primatologists, this irreplaceable collection of data from 50 years of uninterrupted study is now being curated and digitized by researchers at Duke University so that it can become even more useful to science.  Jane traveled to North Carolina in March to preside over the opening of what has been named the Jane Goodall Institute Research Center at Duke University. 


Jane personally met with policymakers on five continents during the Gombe 50 year.  Her reach was far and wide as she met with the president of Taiwan, the leaders of the African Union, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, members of the European Union, and members of the U.S. Congress.

Jane also submitted an important video message that was viewed by world leaders at COP16, the United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Cancun, Mexico, in December.  In the video, Jane emphasized the importance of tropical forests in slowing climate change and preserving the diversity of species.

Throughout the 50th anniversary year, JGI and supporters worldwide celebrated Jane’s remarkable achievements, the extraordinary impact of the Gombe research, and the many answers Gombe has yet to reveal as the field study continues.

Staff of JGI-USA celebrate the start of the Gombe 50 anniversary on July 14, 2010 in Arlington, Virginia.



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