Walking with the Great Apes: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Biruté Galdikas
Three astounding women scientists have in recent years penetrated the jungles of Africa and Borneo to observe, nurture, and defend humanity's closest cousins. Jane Goodall has worked with the chimpanzees of Gombe for nearly 50 years; Diane Fossey died in 1985 defending the mountain gorillas of Rwanda; and Biruté Galdikas lives in intimate proximity to the orangutans of Borneo. All three began their work as protégées of the great Anglo-African archeologist Louis Leakey, and each spent years in the field, allowing the apes to become their familiars--and ultimately waging battles to save them from extinction in the wild.
Their combined accomplishments have been mind-blowing, as Goodall, Fossey, and Galdikas forever changed how we think of our closest evolutionary relatives, of ourselves, and of how to conduct good science. From the personal to the primate, Sy Montgomery--acclaimed author of The Soul of an Octopus and The Good Good Pig--explores the science, wisdom, and living experience of three of the greatest scientists of the twentieth century.
longing: to become one with the forces of the gods. Comparisons of DNA now show that the chimpanzee is our closest living relative, sharing 99 percent of man’s genetic material. In fact, chimpanzees are more closely related to humans than they are to either orangutans or gorillas. “Chimpanzees are so like us—intellectually and emotionally—in their needs, their expectations, their outlook on life,” Jane points out. When two chimpanzees greet after a separation, they may bow or crouch, hold
infant. “I have come to appreciate the importance of early experience in the life of each chimpanzee,” Jane told audiences and reporters over and over. Jane observed that good chimpanzee mothers raised confident, socially adept, competent offspring. She often compared Flo’s mothering styles with those of other Gombe mothers: look at Flo, Jane told her audiences, who would distract her offspring with play and grooming instead of cuffing them when they misbehaved, as Olly sometimes did with
after-ward: that the photo is blurry renders it dreamlike. The 250-pound gorilla’s right hand still hangs in midair. Dian’s eyes are open but unseeing, her lips parted, her left hand brought to her mouth, as if feeling for the lingering warmth of a kiss. Peanuts pounded his chest with excitement and ran off to rejoin his group. Dian lingered after he left; she named the spot where they touched Fasi Ya Mkoni, “the Place of the Hands.” With his touch, Peanuts opened his family to her; she became
Dian up the mountain and follow the gorillas’ trails with her. Often they heard the gorillas pokking their chests in defiance or hooting to distant groups but, remembers Rosamond, “we never saw gorillas at all.” In her first months at Karisoke Dian, even alone, saw little of the gorillas; an hour here, then weeks without a glimpse. Unlike the gorillas of Kabara, who had known George Schaller, the mountain gorillas of Rwanda knew man only as poacher, commander of vicious dogs, and shooter of
the other animals. “You bet I do.” It would be inaccurate to portray Jane’s life now as a joyless string of meetings, lectures, and plane rides. The human species may be arrogant, but Jane finds great joy in its individuals. “She makes friends with every taxi driver, every bellman, every maid,” said Beverly Marker, a former institute staffer who has accompanied Jane on lecture tours. “And she always says, ‘Those are such wonderful people. George’s daughter just loves animals; so-and-so’s son