Interview conducted by Juliana L, Ana D, and Felicia M.
Interview transcribed by Juliana L, and Ana D.
Where do you consider home?
My home is in England in the house I grew up in, which my sister lives in with her family and I go in between every trip, because that’s where all my things are, the trees I climbed as a child. There’s dogs there which I love to take for walks
How do you feel about the changes you’ve seen in Gombe National Park?
I feel very sad, because it used to be part of a great forest, because the National Park system now runs the tourism. We’ve got too many tourists I think and there are some buildings put there which I wish were not there and the forest around the park was degraded, and there are less chimpanzees. There’s more disease transmission from humans to chimps.
What are some generalizations can you make about both human and animal behaviour?
Animal behaviour, if we take sentient animals—animals that have feelings—which you could go down to octopuses and fish, not sure about insects, but basically we all feel pain. Many animals, that’s mammals and birds and some other species too know happiness, sadness, certainly fear, despair, these things we share. Most animals have personalities, you can tell one from the other by their behaviour not just by what they look like.
Have you seen parallels in how humans treat each other and how animals such as chimpanzees treat each other?
Oh, absolutely! We are mostly very loving and kind and supportive of family members. So are chimpanzees, so are many, many other animals. And we are aggressive and defending territory, or you know, men competing for women. And even sometimes women competing for men (laughter), it’s the same for humans and chimpanzees, oh there’s so many ways.
Do you think animals or humans in general are more accepting and have a better morality?
Better morality? Well, it’s different, because although animals can be altruistic and of course they can help individuals who aren’t related as well as individuals who are related. We, our morality is different because of our brain. Let me take an example. A chimpanzee infant falls into the water and even a non-related chimp may jump in to save the baby, just like that, boom. A human child drops into the water, but that’s not a very good example, forget that. But a human being can help another after carefully considering what that may mean for his or her life. They can actually consciously decide “I’m going to help this person or this animal even though it may be very bad for me, it may hurt my career or whatever it happens to me.” So animals just react, and we sometimes do as well but we also have this capacity to actually think of deliberately doing something even if it might hurt us.
What gives you hope?
Well what gives me hope, I’ve already answered all that, you heard the lecture, so I’ll just simply say that the energy of youth; what Roots and Shoots is doing; the human brain, what it’s capable of doing; the resilience of nature, whether it’s restoring habitat or it’s saving an animal species and social media. Oh and the indomitable human spirit! (Dr. Goodall then talks about Chris Koch, one of her idols who went around Europe on a skateboard alone, despite being physically disabled).
Where do you see the biggest impact of your research and activism taking place?
Well I hope the biggest impact is getting all of you young people to take action and do something about it before it’s too late. To give people hope. If people don’t have hope they do nothing. So, that’s my job, going around the world and giving people hope.
What is the most inspirational act you’ve seen from a person?
Oh I think that the man I just mentioned, he’s pretty, I mean there’s an awful lot like that. You know, you could go on and on. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for twenty-three years, seventeen years hard physical labour but when he came out he was able to forgive and that’s why South Africa came out of the evil regime of a partite without a bloodbath.
How do you feel about being an inspiration to so many people worldwide?
Oh , it’s a big responsibility and it’s why I can’t stop travelling. If it didn’t make any impact, I wouldn’t need to do it. Don’t think that I enjoy all this travelling around, because I don’t. If you go 300 days a year and it’s none of it holiday- (Felicia: you get a little sick of it I assume). Oh it’s exhausting, like last night the book signing went on till 11:30. (Noises of exclamation)
Of the changes you’ve seen from the time that you began your research on chimps to now, which human changes have affected you the most in a positive way, and which ones have affected you most in a negative way.
Oh my goodness, well, I think the positive one is that more people around the world are aware that we are harming the environment. That’s very positive. Unfortunately, it’s not leading to change in behaviour very often. That’s the problem, and that’s because people feel helpless. And, you know, the most negative one is people like the deniers of climate change, the people who deny animals have feelings. Which is all ridiculous when all the facts are there and quite honestly, I think climate deniers must- I’m not even sure they believe what they are saying, perhaps they think that’s it’s good for their political career, I don’t know. (Felicia: Or maybe they’re just very stubborn) very stubborn. (Ana: There have always been deniers throughout history) Yes, yes, and there’s also invested interest groups who, you know, put millions and millions of dollars into campaigns. Like GMO labeling, where the people who want GMO labeled on food were able to put I can’t remember how many dollars, but the industry, you know, the GMO industry, they put I think it was 48 million dollars or maybe even more. I don’t know what you all think about genetically modified food but if any- you might pass this around actually, if anyone’s interested and I know people are; there’s a book just out, it’s called Altered Genes, Twisted Truth, it’s by a man called Steven Druker. It’s the most chilling, terrifying, it shows how the science is faulty, not true science, it shows how money has subverted the media, the food and drug administration and America, the general public. It’s really scary, very good, very good read, like a detective novel.