Friday, April 1, 2011

The Chimpanzees of Gombe

Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe by Jane Goodall
Weight: 14 oz.
Method of Disposal: Giving to my Mother, one person who seemed somewhat interested in my ramblings about the book.

I bought this book on discount when I worked at Barnes and Noble. I was only vaguely interested in reading it and only got it because it was such a good deal. I have admired Jane Goodall, and thus chimpanzees, ever since I first heard of her way back when, but it just was not on the top of my reading list. I felt that I had already read so much about her and so much about chimpanzees. I, obviously, have a passion for animals on top of it all and that is what led me to pick this book up out of a pile of others earlier this week.

It did end up surpassing my expectations, and I felt I did not know as much as I thought I did. For several days, I became enmeshed in this chimpanzee world and had trouble leaving it. I could put the book down easy enough. I wasn’t constantly trying to get back to it, but I could not get the chimps out of my head. I found myself inflicting others with conversations about Goodall and the chimps when most people obviously did not care. Probably, they also felt that they had already read or seen enough. Maybe they have, but I am willing to bet that most of them don’t know the half of it.

I kept seeing chimpanzee-like behavior in people that I knew, and it was fascinating. I had also, previously, idealized chimps and was a little shocked at how violent they could be. I found myself feeling angry and disappointed with them often, not unlike I feel towards people. It was really helpful to glean this information from Goodall, who respects and loves the chimps and has spent much of her life with them. She was able to present this information, while also balancing it with examples of kindness and compassion amongst the animals. In one of the final chapters, she discusses how similar people are to chimps, but also highlights their differences. She believes that only humans are capable of evil and torture, or martyrdom.

It is also sad to think of what would have happened to Goodall in the year 2011 if she were to try to go off on a similar expedition at the age she was in the 60s and with the same inexperience. It is easy to envision her being shot down, and then we would have lost so much valuable insight or it would have taken us much longer to get it. What are we missing now? Anything? I guess there is no need to dwell. Excellent people are held back every day, and excellent people push through all the barriers from time to time, throughout history. I am just glad Goodall made it and that she has made it her mission to let others know about Chimps, their link to human behavior, and the need to help save them and other animals from destruction and/or miserable living conditions. I am glad she was able to stand apart from some of the more sterile thinking involved in scientific research and observe the chimpanzees with the full knowledge that they are sentient and emotional beings.

1 comment:

  1. I should give your mom my primate ecology books from college.