Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

October 15, 1998

U of G awards honorary degree to Jane Goodall

A scientist whose 40-year devotion to the wild chimpanzee kick-started a worldwide interest in wildlife preservation will be on campus Wednesday Oct. 21 to receive an honorary degree.

The University of Guelph will award a Doctor of Science degree to Dr. Jane Goodall, the world's leading figure in primate biology, during the graduation ceremony for students in the College of Biological Science, College of Physical and Engineering Science, and the Ontario Veterinary College, 7 p.m. at War Memorial Hall.

"Dr. Goodall is of truly international stature," said Professor John Leatherland, Chair of Biomedical Sciences in the Ontario Veterinary College and the faculty member who composed the Goodall nomination. "In popular terms, the images of "the chimpanzee lady" with binoculars draped around her neck ranks alongside the equally familiar images of Albert Einstein. In scientific terms, she has revolutionized the manner in which we view ourselves relative to other animal species with which we share the planet."

Convocation will be just one activity in a busy schedule for Goodall, who is a tireless world traveller in support of her cause. Earlier in the day she will tour campus facilities, meet with faculty and speak with first-year veterinary students.

Goodall will be available to the media during a community booksigning (she has written nine books), beginning at 2:15 p.m. in the Learning Centre corridor at OVC.

How Goodall came to be a global figure is nearly as extraordinary as the groundbreaking research she has contributed as a biologist. A lifelong fascination with animals led Goodall to take the unprecedented step, when she was 26 and had no academic training, of travelling to Tanzania to study wild chimpanzee behaviour, after being recruited by famed palaeontologist Louis Leakey. Accompanied by her mother and an African cook, Goodall arrived at Gombe National Park on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in 1960, and began her work.

She earned her PhD in ethology from Cambridge University and returned to Tanzania to establish the Gombe Stream Research Centre, where she remains scientific director. "Her description and interpretation of behavioural traits in chimpanzees has given us an understanding of the evolutionary roots of our own behaviour, and we began to view ourselves in a new light, not as a species that is independent of the natural world, but one that is a product of that world. Our attitude toward the animal kingdom has changed immeasurably because of her work."

Goodall was the first scientist to give us evidence of tool-making by a non-human primate species. She described mother-infant interactions among chimpanzees, forms of communication and, disturbingly, that chimpanzees, like humans, war with their neighbours.

She was instrumental in establishing the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), a non-profit organization dedicated to wildlife research, education and conservation. Today it has nine offices around the world, and includes Roots and Shoots, an initiative encouraging youth to become involved in caring for the environment and its inhabitants.

Goodall's Gombe station is active year-round. Today's observations are of the descendants of that first group, dating from nearly 40 years ago. Some 150 chimpanzees live in the 30 square-mile national park, and Goodall's team of field researchers, graduate and post-doctoral students also observe the park's olive baboons.

Part of Goodall's work involves a virtual non-stop itinerary, travelling the world to deliver a wake-up call about the chimps' dwindling population. At the beginning of this century, there were estimated to be several hundred thousand chimpanzees in 25 countries across Africa. Today the population is perhaps 250,000, with significant populations in just four countries.

In addition to the Gombe station, the JGI has sanctuaries in Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. Another station is being established in South Africa. There is also "ChimpanZoo," an international research project to study chimpanzees in zoo and captive settings.

For more information, to set up a telephone interview, contact Communications and Public Affairs at the University of Guelph, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 6982.

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