From Primatologist To Crusader

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Guerin Blask for The New York Times

We became fans when I was in graduate school, and have never stopped admiring her, so this interview is an especially easy read:

Jane Goodall Keeps Going, With a Lot of Hope (and a Bit of Whiskey)

During her girlhood, Tarzan was her role model. When she realized how chimpanzee habitats were being destroyed, she turned into a crusader. At 85, she’s still preaching.

Jane Goodall nursed a glass of neat Irish whiskey. It was the end of a long day of public appearances, and her voice was giving out.

That’s what Ms. Goodall does these days. She talks. To anyone who will listen. To children, chief executives and politicians. Her message is always the same: The forests are disappearing. The animals are going quiet. We’re running out of time.

Ms. Goodall, the celebrated primatologist, was in New York as part of her ongoing efforts to raise money for her institute and its affiliates. The nonprofit organization raises money for conservation efforts across Africa, and works with local communities to promote economic self-sufficiency and improve public health. It’s proven to be an effective model for preserving chimpanzee habitats, yet Ms. Goodall is worried it’s not working fast enough.

“One million species are in danger of extinction,” she said.

Her faltering voice was the result of arduous travel and relentless campaigning. Yet her energy didn’t flag. For more than an hour, Ms. Goodall, 85, spoke about her family history, her unconventional career path and how business leaders — and consumers — can make a difference. This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.

Where’s home for you these days?

Mostly hotels and airplanes. But I’ve got a home in England. It’s that house I grew up in. It belonged to my grandmother, she left it to her three daughters and they left it to me and my sister. The condition is that if any of the family doesn’t want to inherit the house, it can’t just be sold. Everybody has to agree for it to be sold.

What did your parents do for work?

My father was an engineer. As soon as World War II was declared, he joined up and went to build Bailey bridges in Burma. My mum looked after us. For some reason, Pa wanted me and my sister to grow up learning French. So he hired a house in Le Touquet. We’d been there about three months and war broke out. So that was the end of learning French. I think we got the last civilian boat out.

What was your first job?

My very first job was with my aunt who was a physiotherapist. She had a clinic, and I would go there and take down the notes when the doctors were examining her patients. I learned a lot there about how lucky I was to be born healthy.

Read the whole interview here.

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