Great elders of the world: Jane Goodall

Great elders of the world: Jane Goodall

Aged in her mid-eighties and still spending up to three hundred days a year travelling, primatologist Jane Goodall is considered by many to be the world’s leading expert on chimpanzees.

But how did a girl born Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall to a middle class family in London, grow up to become Dame Jane Goodall DBE, one of the great elders of the world?

Childhood dreams

Jane’s love for animals was apparent from an early age. She still has the toy chimpanzee, Jubilee, given to her by her mother when Jane was just two years old. By the time she was 10 years old, Jane had set her heart on living with the animals in Africa. 

At 18, Jane completed secondary school and began work as a waitress, a secretary and an assistant editor in a film studio, all the while saving her pennies for her first trip to Africa.


African adventure

Jane made her first trip to Africa in 1957 when she was 23 years old. Renown anthropologist Louis Leakey allowed Jane to assist him in his study of primates on the condition that her mother, Vanna, act as chaperone for the first three months of the trip!

Leakey was interested in observing and recording the behaviour of chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. Leakey believed that, because she was untrained, Jane would be more likely to describe what she saw rather than what she thought she should be seeing. It is also said that, as she was female, Leakey believed Jane would be more patient and gentle around the wild chimpanzees than her male counterparts!


Ground breaking discoveries   

Three years later Jane arrived in Gombe National Park on a visit she thought might last three years. She was there for two decades!

Determined, passionate, patient and courageous Jane gradually gained the trust of the chimpanzees she followed throughout the Gombe National Park. Her observations enabled Jane to be the first to introduce the world to the behaviours and social relations of chimpanzees.

Prior to Jane Goodall’s ground-breaking discoveries, chimpanzees were thought to be violent and aggressive creatures. Jane was able to provide evidence that chimpanzees were in fact loving and loyal creatures capable of complex emotions including empathy and humour.


Making a difference

Founded in 1977, the Jane Goodall Institute was established to support the continuation of the research at the Gombe National Park.

You can learn more, donate to the Institute, or even become a chimp guardian, by visiting the website here:

Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots youth services program was established in 1991 to inspire individuals to make the world a better place for humans, animals and the environment.

There are Roots and Shoots campaigns running all around the world, including in Australia, and you can learn more about this inspiring program by visiting the website here:

Where in the world is Jane?

Jane is as determined as ever to build an international community of citizens who are willing to work together to create a more harmonious world.

She continues to travel around the globe on her quest to educate and inspire thousands of people every year.

In fact, you can trace Jane’s journey, and find out where in the world Jane is today, by clicking on this link: where in the world is Jane?  

Awards and recognition

Jane Goodall has a long and distinguished career as a primatologist, anthropologist, environmentalist and trailblazer.

Her awards are numerous but there are two of which Jane must be extremely proud. In 2002, Jane Goodall was appointed to serve as a United Nations Messenger of Peace.

In 2004, she was made a Dame of the British Empire during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in London.

Reasons for hope

Even in times of doubt and darkness, Jane Goodall believes we have four reasons for hope:

1.      The human brain

2.      The indomitable human spirit

3.      The resilience of nature

4.      The determination of young people

Jane Goodall believes that when we place our trust in these four elements, we have every reason to have hope for a better future.


An inspiration

Don’t let age get in the way of a solid career. If you have the energy and the motivation, no one ever said retirement was compulsory!

Where in the world will you make a difference today?

Editorial credit for main image: Krista Kennell /

By Lyndal Phillips | Content Services Melbourne

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FAQs: What are the facilities in a retirement village like?

FAQs: What are the facilities in a retirement village like?

FAQs: What is a Retirement Village?

FAQs: What is a Retirement Village?