Here is a transcript of our exclusive interview with Dr. Jane Goodall…enjoy.
Jane spoke with Zooillogix at a teacher’s conference in New York City, where she had given a speech to educators about living in harmony with the Earth and ingraining youngsters with community service experience early and often, just like her “Roots and Shoots” program happens to do. Here are Zooillogix’s brilliant, thought provoking questions and Dr. Goodall’s titillating answers.
Zooillogix: You came into science and research as a relative outsider. What advice can you give to others on the outside of the scientific community for getting involved with rare and exciting animals?
Dr. Goodall: Learn as much as you can about whatever animal interests you. See whether there are any opportunities to volunteer. Keep your ears open, search the internet, travel to visit the animal for some way. Never give up.
Zooillogix: : Your research has often been criticized by the scientific community for anthropomorphizing your subjects and possibly altering their natural behavior through interaction. How do you respond to this criticism?
Dr. Goodall: Anthropomorphism is attributing human-like behavior to non-human animals. Chimpanzees are more like us than any other living creature. Because of similarities in gene structure, immune system, composition of blood and anatomy of brain and nervous system they have been used in medical research, including studies of depression and other psychological conditions. It would be strange if these similarities did not also lead to similarities in intellectual performance and emotional expression. Because they are so close to us in so many ways it makes sense to have, as a starting point, the assumption that if a juvenile chimpanzee behaves as does a happy human child in a situation that would make a human child happy, that the chimpanzee probably feels much as does the human. And so on. It is generally recognized that the social behavior of chimpanzees is highly complex and that often they do, indeed, show behavior that is most likely similar to some of the behavior we show in similar contexts. This way of thinking enables us to make assumptions based on intuition and shared evolutionary heritage that can subsequently be scientifically tested. It may lead to new avenues of research that may throw light on human evolution and behavior.
Zooillogix: You have gained chimps’ favor and observed them by feeding them bananas. Don’t you think that this propagates unhelpful stereotypes about chimpanzees, i.e. that they will do anything for a banana?
Dr. Goodall: I was unaware that anyone thought a chimpanzee would do anything for a banana! A recent study found that bananas influence behavior far less than had been assumed. However, feeding bananas certainly caused some changes in behavior – some individuals almost certainly met more often than they would have done – perhaps friendships or enmities were formed that otherwise would not have. Certainly banana feeding increased aggression in the early days. New methods of offering bananas more or less changed things back to normal. For some time now no bananas have been offered.