Innovator Profiles: Dr. Jane Goodall


Conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace and world expert on chimpanzees. She has worked with Paul Allen on projects designed to protect gorillas and chimpanzees in the Democratic Republic of Congo and elsewhere in Africa. Today, Dr. Goodall travels the world speaking about the threats facing chimpanzees, environmental crises and her reasons for hope.

We sat down with Dr. Goodall to talk about her passion for wildlife, her optimism around the next generation of conservationists and what she’s seeing in the field. You can see JANE, the National Geographic documentary featuring over 100 hours of never-before-seen footage, in select theaters.

What gives you hope when it comes to conservation efforts?

I think what gives me the most optimism are the number of people, the number of Africans in particular, who are understanding the problems. Who are now empowered to take action. There are so many people now working in Africa to help conserve nature. People who have begun to understand that if we don’t preserve the natural world, if we don’t help to conserve biodiversity, then it’s not just the end of species like elephants, lions, giraffes and so forth, but in the end it will harm our own future.

How have films like The Ivory Game and Naledi: A Baby Elephant’s Tale helped?

I think one way in which we can help conservation efforts is to create more awareness through documentary films. I think that Paul Allen’s films about elephants really will reach people’s hearts and make more people want to help. People can help in different ways. Of course people can give money, but I think it’s also very important that those people working for conservation in Africa should collaborate, should share information, should share knowledge, that what we discover should become transparent.

What excites you most about the use of technology in wildlife conservation?

People like Paul Allen are using technology to survey the national parks, to find out where herds of elephants are, to train the rangers in the use of sophisticated technology so that they can help from the ground. They’re using drones to survey large areas of wilderness in national parks so that we get a better understanding of exactly what is going on. Training the rangers on the ground is really important because they are there. They have to face up to it. Finding out where poachers are coming from, where they’re active is another thing that’s tremendously important in protecting African wildlife.

What was it like to see the never-before-seen footage from the National Geographic archives featured in the documentary JANE?

I thought “Oh not another documentary. That same old footage. How boring.” But when I saw what had been done, I was very moved because more than any other documentary, that takes me right back to those days. The best days of my whole life when I was out there in the forest living my dream that I’d had since I was 10 years old. It brings to life the relationship that I had with the chimpanzees that I knew so well. So intimately. Characters like David Greybeard who I first saw using and making a tool, which is what brought National Geographic into the picture in the first place…It was very moving for me to see that documentary.

To learn more about Dr. Jane Goodall’s work, visit The Jane Goodall Institute website.