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.
Fifi sits up and stares at Jane, who is wearing her graying hair in her familiar, youthful ponytail. It has been more than six months since Jane’s last visit to Gombe. Her days as a field researcher ended a decade ago. She still longs for time with the chimps, but her globe-spanning crusade to promote conservation, create sanctuaries for chimp orphans, and improve conditions for captive chimps keeps her away.
Above us on the ridge, Freud climbs down from his nest. He has decided to wake everybody up. Hooting and screaming at the top of his lungs, he charges down the hillside, tossing up leaves and pounding on the ground in a display of authority. Startled chimps peer down from every tree. Most leave their nests and wander off into the forest.
Most, but not all. Frodo steps out of the shadows. A hundred twenty pounds of bulging shoulders and arms, Frodo stares at Jane belligerently. Chewing on his upper lip as he does before misbehaving, he advances ominously toward us.
“Here he comes,” Jane warns, as Frodo rushes ahead. Slap! He hits Michael Neugebauer, an Austrian publisher, on the head. Bang! He pushes Michio Hoshino, a Japanese photographer, over onto Jane. Leaping over Bill Wallauer, the Gombe videographer, Frodo grabs a small tree with both hands, plants his feet on my back, and kicks me down the hill. Then he circles around for Jane. Seizing her ankle in a vise-like grip, he pulls her down the slope for ten feet, then releases her to grab Katrina Fox, another researcher, to drag her against a tree. And then he is gone.
We are shaken but uninjured. Frodo didn’t mean to hurt us. He was only showing off.
“He makes me so angry,” Jane says. “I almost wish I knew a lot of swear words.”
A spoiled brat at heart, the muscular teenager has jumped Jane before, stamping on her head so hard he nearly broke her neck. Unlike most Gombe chimps, who accept her presence peacefully, he seems to want to dominate Jane, showing that chimps, like people, may be kind or cruel, caring or cold, thoughtful or stupid.
“When I first started at Gombe, I thought the chimps were nicer than we are,” Jane recalls wistfully. “But time has revealed that they are not. They can be just as awful.”
Frequently tender and compassionate, humanity’s closest living relatives are also capable of scheming, deceiving, and waging war. It came as a shock to Jane in 1974 when patrols of chimpanzees from the Kasakela community—one of four groups in the 20-square-mile park—began attacking chimps from the Kahama community to the south. She was stunned by reports of stealthy warriors moving through the forest in single file, hair bristling from fear and excitement, stepping from stone to stone to avoid making noise in what came to be known as the Four Year War.
By the end of the conflict, the Kahama community—seven males and three adult females and their young—had been annihilated. Researchers witnessed five of the attacks, in which Kasakela chimps tore at their victims’ flesh with their teeth as if they were common prey.
Fortunately, nothing so horrible has darkened the forest recently. To catch up on the latest news, what has been called the “continuing soap opera" at Gombe, Jane climbs the trail to the feeding station with Bill Wallauer and me. We sit outside the small metal building, bathed in the fragrance of the ripe bananas inside, to gossip about the chimps whose life stories represent the world’s longest continuous study of animals in the wild.
“IT’S SO SAD looking down this list,” Jane says, scanning the names of chimps who have come and gone at Gombe: David Greybeard, the confident male who first accepted her presence; Mike, the diminutive fighter who bluffed his way to the top position by banging empty kerosene cans; the aging Goliath, who was murdered by former chimpanzee friends; “Auntie” Gigi, the mannish old maid who surprised everyone by adopting three orphans; and Flint, the eight-year-old mama’s boy who died of grief when old Flo passed away. Each gave Jane a glimpse into the chimpanzee mind.
I ask about Passion and her daughter, Pom, who were seen to kill and eat three Kasakela infants and almost certainly killed seven newborns over a period of four years—a horrible time when Jane agonized over ways to stop them. She considered moving the pair to another valley, she says, or even temporarily crippling them. But the killings came to an end when Passion herself gave birth again in 1977. Four years later she was dead, victim of a painful, unidentified disease. And Pom, facing the hostility—and long memories—of Kasakela females, was forced to migrate to the Mitumba community to the north.
As we sit in the sunshine, a pair of olive baboons chase each other across the thatched roof of the feeding station. The forest all around buzzes with the music of cicadas.
“Chimpanzees are so inventive,” Jane says. “They do lots of things they don’t need to for survival.” In different parts of Africa, chimps have been observed cracking open nuts with rocks, using twigs for “sandals” to protect their feet from thorns, consuming bitter plants apparently as medicine for stomachaches, and hunting in organized groups.
They are also very political, she says. Male chimps at Gombe, like neighborhood bosses, engage in much handshaking, backslapping, and hugging as they form shifting alliances.
“Has Frodo challenged Freud lately?” she asks Wallauer.
“No, but he's becoming more confident,” he replies. “Frodo never pant-grunts submissively to Freud anymore. The most he will do is climb out of his way.”
Wallauer, dressed in camouflage pants, soccer shoes, and a sleeveless black T-shirt, is one of the team continuing the work Jane began here. Following the chimps up and down Gombe’s steep trails to videotape their behavior, the 30-year-old Oregonian melts into the underbrush as effortlessly as his subjects. He identifies with them so closely he sometimes refers to the Kasakela chimps as “we.”
“The key to the political situation now is Goblin,” Wallauer says, referring to a shrewd former alpha. “If Goblin sides with Frodo, Frodo will easily defeat Freud to become the new alpha. But Goblin keeps going back and forth between them.”
“So they both need him,” Jane says.
“Exactly. Goblin sides with whoever looks most powerful. So no matter who wins, he can’t lose. Meanwhile he has access to any female he wants, right in front of everyone. Neither Freud nor Frodo will stop him, or they might lose his support. So smart.”
“Testosterone does such magic for men,” Jane says, a twinkle in her eye. NO ONE KNOWS her as Jane Goodall at her home in Dar es Salaam, 675 miles east of Gombe. Here they call her Mama Bryceson, remembering her second husband, Derek Bryceson, who was a member of Tanzania’s parliament and director of national parks.
“It was a real love match,” says Mary Smith, a longtime friend and former editor at National Geographic. “She was absolutely nuts about him.”
When Derek died of cancer in 1980, after only five years of marriage, Jane was devastated by the loss. Some of her heartache lingers in the house they shared in Dar, where we sit on the patio, looking out on the Zanzibar Channel. Men with their pants legs rolled up are clamming in the low tide, shadowed by herons doing the same. A boy swatting at cattle with a switch is trying to move them along the beach.
If a person’s home reflects her life, you might fairly conclude that Jane is a solitary individual. Aside from her residence in Dar, she has a concrete-block house at Gombe and shares her mother’s seaside Victorian home in Bournemouth, England. But Jane lives on the move.
“During the past nine years, the longest I’ve spent in any one place has been three weeks,” she says.
Although her breezy house in Dar is full of visitors, it feels empty, just as Jane herself can appear lonely when surrounded by friends and admirers. The small bedroom she keeps for herself lacks personal touches, except for a plastic photo cube on her nightstand. Besides a favorite snapshot of Derek, it holds pictures of Jane’s mother, Vanne, in her late 80s, who lives with Vanne’s older sister, Olly; of Jane’s 28-year-old son, Grub (his real name is Hugo, after his father, Hugo van Lawick), who runs a sportfishing business from the cottage next door; and of her old friend Fifi cradling an infant—little Frodo.
“Jane hates it when I compare her to Mother Teresa, but she has certain similar qualities,” says Mary Smith. “She’s the most selfless person I know, has no interest whatever in material possessions, and lets nothing stand in her way.”
Soon after her marriage to Derek, Jane faced one of the most difficult episodes in her life, a kidnapping of students at Gombe. The terror began during the night of May 19, 1975, when a boatful of rebel soldiers from Zaire landed on the beach near the camp, looking for white foreigners to hold for ransom. They beat Rashidi Kikwale, a longtime Gombe worker, then seized four researchers and took them back to Zaire.
“We thought we'd never see them again,” says Tony Collins, a researcher then at Gombe. “We thought they were dead.” The hostages were eventually freed, but only after two agonizing months and payment of a ransom. For months after, Jane was forbidden by the Tanzanian government to live at Gombe because of the threat of kidnapping. In Dar she turned her attention to analyzing data from her first 15 years with the chimps.
“Gombe was still the best place in the world for me,” she says. “But I came to realize the chimps needed me elsewhere. That phase of my life. . . .” She lets the sentence go. “I knew I had to use the knowledge the chimps gave me in the fight to save them.”
Out of that period came The Chimpanzees of Gombe, a book published in 1986 that prompted Stephen Jay Gould of Harvard University to describe her work as “one of the Western world’s great scientific achievements.” And Jane was gaining the confidence she needed to speak out on issues she had previously avoided—the loss of habitat across Africa, the illegal trade in chimp babies, and the abuse of chimps in medical research.
“Before, when someone said, ‘Jane, you could go meet President Mobutu in Kinshasa and try to save the orphan chimps in the market,’ I just laughed. Why would Mobutu want to see me?” she says. “It took a while for me to realize that people would listen.”
In the years since, she won financing from Conoco Inc., the oil company, to build a 65-acre fenced sanctuary near Pointe-Noire in Congo, where Graziella Cotman now looks after 50 orphan chimps confiscated by the government from traders. In Bujumbura, Burundi, she set up a “halfway house” for ten orphans in a private backyard. At the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe she helped support 26 more orphans. With her advice the Lonrho corporation built a 200-acre sanctuary at the Sweetwaters Game Reserve in Kenya, where Jane stops by to see ten chimps who have been moved here from the Bujumbura Halfway House.
“Hello there,” she says to Poco, kneeling to offer him her hand. Until his owner surrendered him to authorities, Poco had been kept in a cage behind a gas station—one so small he was forced to stand most of the time. Now he looks cocky. Doing his best to impress Jane, he swaggers by on two feet, throws his shoulder against the cage, and sprints through a raceway between two cages.
Surprisingly, not everyone who cares about chimps applauds Jane’s efforts to save orphans. To some conservationists, money spent on sanctuaries would be better used to preserve forests where chimps are still free. “There are thousands of orphan chimps in Africa. How are you going to save them?” asks Geza Teleki, who once headed Jane’s programs in Africa. “We should worry about habitat, not orphans.”
That isn’t Jane’s way. Her heart belongs to the individual. She believes in the need to protect habitat and has even helped start a reforestation program in Tanzania. “But there are not many people,” she writes, “who, after meeting an orphaned infant and looking into those desperate eyes, can turn away.”
“I THINK my institute is trying to kill me off,” Jane says, looking waiflike in a rumpled raincoat at the municipal airport in Ithaca, New York. It is day 22 of her annual North American lecture tour, a 15-city marathon to raise funds for the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), the nonprofit organization that supports her projects around the world. She has just arrived on a commuter flight from Durham, New Hampshire. Tomorrow she flies to White Plains, New York.
“They've got me doing four or five talks and meetings a day,” she says. Her voice is croaky. Though she often travels with someone on her staff, today Jane is alone, carrying little more than a toothbrush, a change of clothes, and a pile of paperwork.
“Jane likes to travel, to do what she wants. She doesn’t like to be managed,” says Dilys Vass, director of the JGI chapter in England. “She feels at home wherever she is and never complains when planes get canceled or people don’t show up. Africa training, perhaps.”
Until recently another problem had added a nerve-racking urgency to her campaign: Her institute was going broke.
“Everybody would say, ‘But Jane, you must have all the money you need,’ ” she recalls. “But by mid-1993 we were only four months from everything coming to a stop.”
With revenues shrinking and project costs swelling—it takes $500,000 a year to run the sanctuaries alone—Jane hired a new director, Don Buford, a former political consultant from Texas with a knack for fund-raising. Since then contributions have doubled and membership increased sevenfold. Buford gives the credit to Jane.
“She has this boundless, optimistic enthusiasm that inspires people,” he says. “She’s not just a motivational speaker like some guy selling videotapes. She holds a lofty mirror up to what is best in us all.”
“She’s my hero,” says Birutė Galdikas, whose studies of orangutans in Borneo, along with the late Dian Fossey’s work with mountain gorillas in Rwanda, are frequently likened to Jane’s. “She has this amazing effect on people, especially young women. I’ve seen it many times when I’ve been on lecture tours with her.”
At a reception for students at Cornell University, a ring of young women closes around Jane, who is describing how adolescent chimp females often leave their community to join another. Kimberly Phillips, a graduate student in genetics, asks what kind of welcome a female can expect from the new community.
“Well, the males are delighted,” Jane says. “But the females beat her up. They don’t want the competition. One strategy the newcomer can use, however, is to attach herself to a high-ranking female, even if she is treated badly by that female. The others will eventually accept her.”
“God, it sounds just like high school,” Kimberly says.
That evening at Bailey Hall, where Jane is to give a lecture, she sinks into an armchair backstage and closes her eyes. She is wearing black slacks and a black sweatshirt decorated with the names of Gombe chimps—her elementary school outfit. “Didn't have time to iron a dress,” she says, a crooked smile on her lips, as if sharing a secret. I recall what her mother told me about Jane hating to bother with clothes as a child.
“She couldn’t bear it,” Vanne said. “One day I said, ‘Look, Jane, you have to have a new tunic.’
“ ‘Because the back of your tunic is going through. It’s getting threadbare.’
“ ‘I'm not having a new tunic. It’s a waste of money, ’ she said. ‘Nobody looks at my back view. They look at my front.’ ”
The lecture at Cornell has been sold out for weeks. The hubbub of a thousand voices drifts behind the curtain to where Jane sits.
“I feel totally incapable of giving a lecture,” Jane says. “I always do—until the moment I go out. Then I get something from all the people.”
Tonight is no different. As soon as she hears the audience laugh at her first story, Jane’s voice rises and she is off. She tells how, at the age of five, when she and her mother were visiting relatives in the English countryside, she followed a hen into a chicken coop to find out where eggs came from. As she squeezed inside, the terrified hen came flying out, squawking.
“That was when I learned my first lesson in what is essential for anybody who wants to study animals—patience," she says. “I hid in the straw at the back of the stuffy little hen house. And I waited and waited.”
It was late afternoon, getting dark. She’d been missing for more than four hours. Her distraught family summoned the police.
“Then finally my mother, calling in the gloaming, saw this excited little girl come running across a field with shining eyes and straw all over her. And instead of scolding me, which would have taken away all the joy, she sat down to hear my story.”
After the lecture a crowd jams the lobby of Bailey Hall, where Jane sits at a table signing books. Among those waiting is Patty Erickson, a 37-year-old mother of two, who swept cages at the Metro Washington Park Zoo in Portland, Oregon, when Jane visited in 1984.
“I wanted to meet her in the worst way back then,” she says. “But I stayed in the back. Who was I, an unimportant zookeeper. But Jane noticed me somehow and went out of her way to say hello. When someone asked for a group photo, Jane called me over. I couldn't believe it.”
Inspired by Jane’s example, Erickson resolved to go back to school. She is now enrolled in Cornell’s program in veterinary medicine.
It is after 11 o’clock by the time Jane signs the last book at Bailey Hall. Yet her evening is not over. Another group is waiting at still another reception that will not end until after midnight. Ted Lazcano, a patrolman with the Cornell University Police, has been standing beside Jane for the past hour and a half. It’s his job to be here, but he’s also been listening to what people have been saying to Jane. And he’s seen what she has written in their books: “Follow your dreams.” As Jane puts on her raincoat and heads out the door, Lazcano reaches into his wallet and drops two dollars into the donation box.
There is another Jane Goodall aside from the one you want to hug. This one is relentlessly focused, impatient with excuses, and tough as nails. Just ask John Landon.
“Jane Goodall brutalized me for four years,” says Landon, a genial, silver-haired executive whose company, Bioqual Inc., of Rockville, Maryland, uses chimpanzees to test vaccines for the National Institutes of Health. “She condemned me as one of the cruelest people in the world.”
Landon’s troubles began on a Sunday morning in December 1986, when a lab worker phoned him at home to say that four chimps were missing. They had been taken by a group of animal activists called True Friends, who had broken into the lab, copied records, and made a videotape of the cages.
A second group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), edited the tape and mailed a copy to Jane in Bournemouth, where she was spending Christmas with Vanne and Olly. The tape showed a roomful of tiny cages resembling microwave ovens stacked on top of one another. Inside were young chimps rocking from side to side, apparently driven mad by their sterile, cramped confinement.
“We all sat watching the tape, and we were all shattered,” Jane recalls in the 1993 book Visions of Caliban. “I had, of course, known about the chimpanzees who were locked away in medical-research laboratories. But I had deliberately kept away, knowing that to see them would be utterly depressing, thinking that there would be nothing I could do to help them. After seeing the tape, I knew I had to try.”
Three months later, at the invitation of NIH, Jane visited the lab, which was then called SEMA, Inc. It was her first venture into what she calls the “nightmare world” of medical research. She was shocked by the listless chimps, whose eyes, she wrote, were “dull and blank, like the eyes of people who have lost all hope, like the eyes of children you see in Africa, refugees, who have lost their parents and their homes.” When Jane left, she was crying.
Within days she denounced the lab in a lecture at the University of Maine, where Landon’s daughter happened to be a student. “If we shouldn’t do something to humans,” she asked, “should we do it to chimps?” She kept up the pressure during the following months, visiting other labs in the United States, where about 1,700 chimpanzees are kept mostly for research on hepatitis, AIDS, and respiratory viruses. She met with lawmakers and helped draft proposed changes to USDA regulations on cages. She held press conferences and gave interviews, accusing labs of subjecting chimps to conditions “not unlike concentration camps.”
When Jane met Landon again at a scientific conference in 1991, she was surprised by his cheerfulness. “For years you were my worst enemy. I could have strangled you,” he said. “But now I want to thank you and show you what we have done.”
Landon had built 24 spacious new cubicles for his chimps, complete with glass walls, sleeping platforms, climbing equipment, and toys. The chimps, now kept in pairs, could see one another through the walls and play with lab workers, sometimes pressing their backs against the glass for a pretend scratch.
“When they moved into the new enclosures, their personalities changed. I could see it,” Landon said.
Today he and Jane are friends. Instead of ripping into him in her speeches, Jane praises what Landon has done as a model for the future. “Of course I should like to see all lab cages standing empty,” she says. “But as long as it is thought necessary for animals to be used in labs, they should be given the most humane treatment possible, and the best living conditions.”
Still, there is much more to do, Jane says. The chimps at labs such as Landon’s normally spend only two or three years in testing programs. Then they are shipped off to holding facilities, where they can live to be as old as 50. “Why should they be locked up like criminals?” she asks. “Having done their duty for science, don’t they deserve better?”
“MIND THE DUCK,” Jane tells me as I climb into an open boat filled with heaps of green bananas. The bird is trying to settle in beside a village woman nursing an infant. The woman has taken shelter from the rain beneath a plastic tarp. I find a place with the other passengers on the boat's slippery gunwales.
We are in Africa again, on our way from Gombe to Kigoma, 12 miles to the south along the shore of Lake Tanganyika. As the boat bangs up and down on the waves, the stern rises out of the water and the outboard motor races wildly. After 40 minutes of pounding, the battered bow springs a leak, and we are forced to pull into a fishing settlement for cotton to stuff in the seam.
Once we arrive in Kigoma, Jane and I are driven by minibus to the village of Mgaraganza, where Balagaye G. Balagaye, headmaster of the Mlati School, greets us beneath the shade of msonobari trees with canary yellow blossoms. There are 650 children at his school, seven to sixteen years old, with no paper or pencils and only a few books.
“Welcome, Dr. Janie, welcome, Dr. Janie, karibu, Dr. Janie, karibu, Dr. Janie,” sings a class of teenagers who have waited years for this day. They are celebrating Roots & Shoots Week, part of the environmental education program Jane started in Dar es Salaam in 1991. Following Jane out into the sunbaked schoolyard, hundreds of youngsters gather around her as she plants a small shade tree. After patting the soil, she kneels to kiss the tree, and the children cheer. Many are holding seedlings to plant around the village.
Later, as we say our good-byes to the headmaster, he takes Jane aside to give her a letter of thanks. At the bottom he has written a list of items he urgently needs for his students: a radio, a camera, a globe, a new secondary school building—not necessarily in that order. Jane shakes her head and sighs.“He doesn't realize that I don’t have any money,” she says.
As we climb back into the minibus, the students perform one last song. "Don't forget us, Mama Janie," they sing. “Don’t forget us, don’t forget us, until we meet again.”
When Jane started Roots & Shoots, her aim was to raise the awareness of African children about animals and thus plant the seeds for future conservation. But the idea of a program for young naturalists caught on in the U. S., Canada, Germany, Japan, and more than 20 other countries as well, and now there are over 250 Roots & Shoots groups.
“Jane is the spark,” says Martin Smith, the program director. “She infuses hope.”
ON HER LAST MORNING at Gombe, as she is sipping a cup of coffee from her thermos, Jane hears a group of chimps hooting in the forest above her house. She slips on her sandals and sets out for the feeding station.
The first chimp to stroll out of the forest is Gremlin. Intelligent and affectionate, Gremlin inherited a natural dignity from her high-ranking mother, Melissa, who died in 1986. With Gremlin this morning is Galahad, her seven-year-old son, and Gaia, her two-year-old daughter.
Fifi and her family make their entrance next. Carrying little Ferdinand on her back, Fifi gives Gremlin a kiss on the lips, then sits down at Jane’s feet beneath a palm tree, swinging Ferdinand around into her lap.
“Here you are, my sweetheart,” Jane says. I am reminded of the wide-eyed girl who first came to Gombe years ago, with her long blond hair and high-top basketball sneakers, knapsack slung across her back. At moments like this, that young girl, as Jane once recalled, “is still there, still part of the more mature me, whispering excitedly in my ear.”
Fifi’s son Faustino, feeling his oats, chases his buddy Galahad around the trunk of the palm. Five, six, seven times. Then Goblin wanders out of the forest, and Gremlin, his sister, gets up to greet him. She sits down next to him and grooms his back. The sky rumbles with distant thunder, and a wave of mist cascades over the deep green forest up on Sleeping Buffalo Ridge.
“I can’t imagine a better morning,” Jane says.
Suddenly the clouds open and it pours. We all rush inside the feeding station. To everyone’s surprise, Fifi troops right in behind us, sitting in the doorway with Ferdinand in her lap, her long black hair glistening with rain. Jane is mesmerized by this gesture of trust.
“Just think of all the knowledge packed into that head,” she marvels, her eyes fixed on Fifi. Another crack of thunder, and Fifi turns to leave. She ambles off down the path to rejoin her species, lugging her baby along.
The chimps have worked their magic on Jane once more. For a moment she has forgotten her crusade to promote chimpanzee research, save orphan chimps, improve the lives of lab animals, and inspire human children. Filled with new energy, she is suddenly up and running, chasing Michael Neugebauer around the inside of the building. Around and around they go, like Faustino and Galahad. Jane is crafty, faking one way, then going another. She catches him and laughs. And the cares of the world, for a while, are lifted from her heart. A MESSAGE FROM JANE GOODALL
A FEW YEARS AGO a chimpanzee named Joe-Joe was fighting with another chimp at the Detroit Zoo and fell into a water-filled moat. Chimpanzees don’t swim. Three times he came to the surface, gasping for breath, and then he was gone. Fortunately, a visitor to the zoo, Rick Swope, quickly jumped in after him. Grasping the 135-pound dead weight around the middle, Rick heaved Joe-Joe onto the steep bank.
With security guards yelling warnings of danger, Rick turned to rejoin his wife and three frantic children. But suddenly Joe-Joe, still unconscious, began to slide back into the water. Rick rescued him again, holding him on the bank until he came around. Rick then looked up, just in time to see the other male chimp rushing toward them, hair bristling, canine teeth bared in a scream. Vaulting the enclosure fence, the rescuer narrowly escaped what could have been a savage attack.
The scene was captured by a woman with a video camera, and that night the story was flashed across America’s TV screens. One of my colleagues saw it and called Rick. “What you did was very brave. You must have known it was dangerous. What made you do it?”
“Well,” said Rick, “I looked into his eyes. It was like looking into the eyes of a man. The message was, Won’t anybody help me?”
I know that look well. I have seen it in the eyes of chimps tied up in African markets, locked behind the steel bars of laboratory prisons, or chained beneath the frills of the circus. I have also seen it in abandoned, abused human children, in youngsters desperate to rise above the inner city or the poverty-stricken village. So many problems, so much suffering, for humans and nonhumans alike. Poverty, malnutrition, disease, pollution. And violence—in war-torn Africa and across the developed world, with gangs, drug abuse, homicides. As I write these lines at my home in Dar es Salaam, I feel overwhelmed. We love to point fingers when we try to deal with difficult problems such as the environment, to lay the blame on industry or science or politicians. And there is no question that industrialization has polluted our surroundings. But who buys the products? We do, you and I, the vast, amorphous general public. Each of our actions has a global impact.
That is why each of us must do our part, no matter where we live, in city or countryside, in Africa, America, or elsewhere. In Tanzania we spread this message through song. When our conservation team, led by project manager George Strunden, visits a village, our women’s choir entertains. Then the team shows residents how to set up nurseries for fruit trees. With every seedling the villagers plant, they join the global struggle.
Children are quick to see the value of individual action. All around the world, when I talk to them, I find them aware that they are part of the problem, convinced they can make a difference, and eager to help, just as Rick Swope did for Joe-Joe. Therein lies our hope—more and more people are opening their hearts to the desperation they see around them and springing into action. For this is how we can attain our human potential for compassion. And for love.