Goodall speaks at UC Irvine

The activist known for her chimpanzee research talks about hope for the future of the planet and more as part of UCI's Living Peace Series on Tuesday night.

October 04, 2012|By Bradley Zint
  • Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall is overwhelmed by a standing ovation as she arrives to the podium for her talk as part of the Living Peace Series in the Pacific Ballroom at UC Irvine on Tuesday.
Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall is overwhelmed… (DON LEACH, Daily…)

Being only about 18 months old, Jane Goodall doesn't remember the moment, but her mother has since retold it to her.

She had come into little Jane's room only to find that she had taken a handful of earthworms to bed. Years later, Goodall said her mother's supportive reaction helped set the tone for what would be a lifelong love of animals.

"She didn't say, 'Oh, throw those dirty things away,'" Goodall said. "She simply said, 'Jane, if you leave them here, they'll die. They need the earth.' And so I helped her carry them back into the garden."

The story was one of many that Goodall, who's best known for her revolutionary research of chimpanzees in Africa, shared with a packed auditorium Tuesday night at UC Irvine as a guest speaker for the Living Peace Series.

The series is a partnership between UCI and the Center for Living Peace, and previous speakers have included Sir Richard Branson, Charlize Theron and the Dalai Lama.


Goodall, 78, spoke for nearly an hour and included details of her life that were intertwined with an overlaying message of hope for the future and that people can truly make a difference.

In addition to the earthworm incident, she recalled another early influence on her love for animals: Tarzan, who ended up "marrying that other Jane, the wrong Jane."

"That was what really set in stone my dream," Goodall said. "I would grow up, go to Africa, live with wild animals and write books about them."

That goal started in 1957 when she moved to Africa, which was then "a dark continent," — dark in that it was full of mystery.

After securing money for her chimpanzee research, Goodall eventually had a breakthrough observation. She saw a chimp put a grass stem into a termite mound, then pull it out and chew the termites off of it.

"He was modifying an actual object. He was making a tool," Goodall said. "Why was this so special? ... Back then, it was thought that humans, and only humans, use and make tools."

Goodall sent the news via telegram to Louis Leakey, a fellow British archaeologist in Africa who supported her work.

"Now we must redefine man, redefine tools or accept chimpanzees as humans," Goodall recalled him saying.

Other observations she had of the chimps were that their use of nonverbal communications, like patting on the back, swaggering, shaking fists and embracing, are similar to human behavior.

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