Grabbing roots and vines to keep from sliding, Jane Goodall eases down the steep slope on all fours. It is just before dawn in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, and the 61-year-old primatologist is in a hurry. She wants to find the wild chimpanzees before they waken and climb down from their nests. Stopping beside a sprawling fig tree, whose branches are black fingers against the plum-colored sky, she points to a nest where dark shapes are stirring.
A small face pops up—two bright eyes surrounded by oversize milk-chocolate ears. It’s Ferdinand, the three-year-old son of Fifi, the last survivor of the chimpanzees Jane first studied at Gombe 35 years ago. The daughter of ragged-eared, bulbous-nosed Flo, who died in 1972, Fifi has six offspring of her own, including 24-year old Freud, the dominant, or alpha, male, and Frodo, a 19-year-old bully.