Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior

Living Edition
| Editors: Jennifer Vonk, Todd Shackelford

Jane Goodall

  • Malin K. LilleyEmail author
  • Maria Zapetis
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-47829-6_923-1


Conservation leader and humanitarian who made several ground breaking discoveries on chimpanzee behavior in Tanzania and is a current advocate for animal welfare around the world.


In a time when humans were the only species in the world to make tools, naming conventions of study subjects were restricted to numbers, and women in science were few and far between, Jane Goodall stepped onto African soil and changed the way we thought about animals, the environment, and ourselves. Goodall spent over 20 years researching the chimpanzees in Gombe to discover groundbreaking facts about their previously elusive behavior, and, perhaps even more alluring to the public, their social relationships, individual personalities, and emotions. Rich with experience and full of courage and compassion, Goodall’s life has become the topic of numerous articles, novels, children’s books, movies, television shows, and conversations. To this day, Goodall is absorbed in her conservation work, traveling most of the year in order to spread a message of conservation and peace to all citizens of the world (Jane Goodall Institute 2016). Goodall has become a legend in the study of chimpanzee behavior and a symbol of conservation because she has dedicated her life, professional and personal, to these causes.

Personal Life

On April 3, 1934, Valerie Jane Morris-Goodall was born in London. Her mother, Vanne Morris-Goodall, was a novelist and her father, Mortimer Herbert Morris-Goodall, was a businessman (Jane Goodall Institute 2016). When Mortimer enlisted in the military during WWII and no longer lived at home, Vanne served as a strong, independent female role model for Jane and her younger sister Judy. When Jane was 12, her parents divorced and Jane continued to live with her mother’s family in the countryside, where they had moved during the war (Goodall and Berman 1999).

Living in the countryside allowed Jane to be immersed in nature from a young age. There are many anecdotes of Jane exploring the outdoors and observing animals, such as chickens and the family dog. Jane showed an interest in animal welfare from a young age: she took care of earthworms and did not want to hurt dragonflies. Goodall’s favorite toy as a child was a stuffed chimpanzee that was given to her by her father (Jane Goodall Institute 2016). Other early influences in Jane’s life included her grandmother who was another strong female role model, and a number of books, especially the story of Dr. Doolittle and Tarzan (Jane Goodall Institute 2016). These books sparked an interest in studying the wildlife of Africa, one of her long-term goals.

Throughout her childhood, Jane continued to demonstrate her love of wildlife by starting “The Alligator Club,” in which Jane, Judy, and their two friends learned about wildlife together and held small events. Goodall was a good student, but preferred to be outdoors with animals rather than inside a classroom. However, she did complete her secondary education and went on to train as a secretary. Throughout her childhood and young adult life, Goodall reflected on the nature of humans, often wondering how they could sometimes be so intelligent and yet be responsible for atrocities such as the Holocaust (Goodall and Berman 1999). Goodall’s curiosity with the nature of aggression and human self-awareness would later be reflected in her reports on violent and peaceful aspects of chimpanzee societies and her work as a United Nations Messenger of Peace (Jane Goodall Institute 2016).

After Jane trained as a secretary, she went to work at the University of Oxford Registrar’s Office and then a film studio in London, but these jobs were not particularly fulfilling. When one of her friends from school invited Jane to visit her father’s farm in Kenya, she was ecstatic, as it was her dream to visit Africa. She moved back home to work as a waitress in order to save money and boarded a Kenya-bound ship in 1957. Jane loved being in the very place she read about in her favorite stories as a child, and sought employment to extend her stay (Goodall and Berman 1999).

Jane was hired as a secretary for the paleoanthropologist, Louis Leakey, who was the curator of the Coryndon Museum in Nairobi. Jane accompanied Leakey and his family on fossil digs in the Olduvai Gorge. There, Jane was able to be a part of the search for the missing links in the evolution of Homo sapiens. Leakey spoke of his desire to research the behavior of wild chimpanzees because ancient human behavior was not fossilized, and the closest option for looking at prehistoric human behavior was to observe the closely related chimpanzees. Eventually Jane vocalized her desire to observe chimpanzees, which led Leakey to make logistical arrangements and secure funding from the Wilkie Foundation and National Geographic Society for Jane’s expedition (Lindsey 1999).

Vanne Morris-Goodall accompanied Jane to what is now the field station at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. The mother-daughter pair proved to be resilient in the foreign environment and persevered through a period of sickness and fever. Vanne set up a medical clinic at their research camp, which helped to establish a rapport with the locals and demonstrate that Jane and her mother were there to help. After several years of fieldwork and a few new discoveries, Jane secured continued funding for the project. In 1962, her sponsor (the National Geographic Society) sent Hugo van Lawick to photograph and film Jane and the chimpanzees in Gombe. By 1965, she was married to van Lawick and had earned her PhD from the University of Cambridge with Robert Hinde as her advisor. Goodall is one of just a handful of people who had been granted a PhD without first earning a bachelor’s degree (Jane Goodall Institute 2016).

By 1967, Goodall gave birth to a son (Hugo Eric Louis van Lawick, aka Grub) and had created the Gombe Stream Research Centre with funding from the National Geographic Society. Graduate and undergraduate students from the United States, Europe, and Tanzania flocked to the new center to conduct field research on chimpanzees. As the new center’s Scientific Director, Goodall encouraged a cooperative, tight-knit community, where researchers shared data, exchanged information, and presented their findings in open, casual settings. As the number of researchers in the center expanded, so did their species of interest; some began studying other primate species’ behavior as well (Greene 2008). The additional man-power enabled Goodall to spend most of her time writing research findings, proposals, advising students, attending to administrative duties of the center, and raising Grub. As a new mother, Goodall spent as much time as possible with her son in Gombe. Many of Goodall’s mothering techniques were actually learned from observing the chimpanzee Flo raise her own children. Goodall followed Flo’s affectionate example of child rearing, even though it was considered unorthodox at the time (Pratt 1997). At the age of nine, Grub returned to England for schooling and lived with his extended family there.

As the findings of the Gombe Stream Research Centre were disseminated and the number of researchers grew, Goodall began to give more lectures and talks overseas. She traveled as a vising professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Stanford University from 1970 to 1975 and published her first book, In The Shadow of Man (1971). Goodall divorced Hugo in 1974 and later remarried Derek Bryceson, director of Tanzania’s national parks, in 1975 (Goodall and Berman 1999). The same year, four foreign students in the research center were abducted by armed revolutionary soldiers, and as a precaution, no foreign students were allowed back until 1989. In the intermediary, day-to-day operations of the research center relied almost entirely on the African researchers and staff. Goodall created the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research Education and Conservation to financially sustain research in Gombe and returned from her position in Stanford, enjoying her life with the small, all-African research group once more. However, even the duration of her own visits to Gombe were restricted. Goodall and Derek lived happily together until he succumbed to cancer in 1980, which Goodall has described as an extremely painful time in her life (Goodall and Berman 1999).

Goodall returned to Gombe to heal and experienced a moment of clarity after a thunderstorm in the forest (Goodall and Berman 1999). She set out to compile her findings of many years in Gombe into a single book that would both contribute to the field scientifically and be easily understood by the public. After 6 years she published The Chimpanzees of Gombe (1986), which distinguished Goodall as a leader in the field of primatology and chimpanzee behavior. To celebrate, Drs. Goodall and Heltne (Chicago Academy of Sciences) organized a conference on the topic of chimpanzees that would subsequently change the direction of Goodall’s career, and begin her voyage as one of the modern era’s most famous advocates of animal welfare and conservation.


When Goodall began her research in Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve on Lake Tanganyika in 1960, very little was known about wild chimpanzee behavior. Goodall’s mentor and advocate for the study, Louis Leakey, was a paleoanthropologist who believed that studying such a close relative of the human species would provide insight into the evolutionary origins of human behavior (Lindsey 1999).

Research in the forests of Tanzania was not an easy task. Upon Goodall’s arrival at Gombe, the chimpanzees were elusive and avoided close proximity to her. Everyday Goodall would climb trees, travel through the thorny undergrowth, carefully avoid other wild animals, and endure long spans of time without food and water in order to search for, and observe the resident chimpanzees of Gombe. Sometimes Goodall would even sleep near the chimpanzees’ nest site so that she could wake up with them the next morning (Goodall 1963). After several months, a chimpanzee Goodall previously named David Greybeard allowed Goodall to approach him. This was an invaluable step of progress for Goodall’s research, as it enabled closer observation of the rest of the chimps and their gradual desensitization to Goodall’s presence.

Goodall visually identified all 89 chimpanzees who inhabited the territory at Gombe (Goodall 1986). Unlike most other scientists at the time, Goodall gave each research subject a name, acknowledged that they had unique personalities, and immersed herself in their environment (Jane Goodall Institute 2016). Leakey saw Goodall’s lack of formal training as an advantage because it meant that she did not bring some of the preconceptions and biases someone with a formal education would possess (Jane Goodall Institute 2016). However, her education level, anthropomorphic tendencies, and gender caused Goodall’s observations, interpretations, and abilities as a researcher to be the target of doubt and criticism by many others in the research community. Regardless, Goodall made many remarkable discoveries concerning chimpanzee communication, social structure, relationships, ranging patterns, foraging tendencies, hunting, aggression, affiliative behavior, dominance, sexual behavior, territoriality, tool use, and social awareness, among other cognitive abilities (Goodall 1986).

Chimpanzee relationships provided Goodall with context for their social interactions. She categorized relationships as friendly, unfriendly, or sexual and found that the social bond between mother and offspring was the strongest in her population (Goodall 1986). Goodall learned that young chimpanzees stayed with their mothers for up to 7 years after birth, helped to care for siblings, and formed long-lasting bonds with members of their social group. Although the chimpanzees had a larger social unit that was relatively stable over time, individuals or smaller family units were often found apart from the larger group, which constituted a “fission-fusion” society (Goodall 1963). The males of each social group had their own dominance hierarchy, and while there was also a dominant individual among female chimps, she did not maintain her dominance in the male hierarchy (Goodall 1963).

As Gombe’s chimpanzee social unit began to fragment, Goodall was able to document the aggressive nature of chimpanzees. The two new communities established territorial boundaries within the larger territory they had previously shared. The males of a group patrolled the boundaries of their territory together. Goodall reported on how several members of one group would isolate and attack a member of the neighboring group, killing the individual or inflicting fatal wounds in a sort of primitive warfare (Goodall and Berman 1999). Goodall also witnessed several cases of infanticide, where a mother-daughter pair killed newborns of other mothers within the same social group. These observations contributed to the discussion on whether aggressive tendencies of humans and chimpanzees are learned or inherited.

However, Goodall assured that the vivid displays of chimpanzee violence did not occur more frequently than peaceful interactions, and continued to report on the chimpanzees’ caring and cooperative nature (Goodall 1986). The chimpanzees engaged in close physical contact upon greeting one another with gestures that resembled human hugs, holding hands, and kisses. Goodall learned that chimpanzee mothers had different mothering styles, just like humans. Some chimpanzee mothers were very protective, while others allowed their young more freedom, sometimes ignoring them altogether (Goodall 1963). The chimps spent long periods of time grooming one another, tickling each other, and laughing. Goodall described how chimpanzees would engage in seemingly selfless acts to help fellow group members, including one instance when an adult male adopted a young orphaned chimp, which was a very atypical social arrangement (Goodall and Berman 1999).

In her descriptions of chimpanzee foraging and hunting behavior, Goodall revealed that chimpanzees were not primarily vegetarians and fruit eaters as previously thought (Goodall 1986). Chimpanzees ate mammals, including bushpigs, rats, and mice and often shared their kills with their group mates. They also ate birds, termites, and a variety of vegetation such as leaves, blossoms, stems, seeds, and fruit (Jane Goodall Institute 2016). Even more remarkable than the finding that chimpanzees ate meat were Goodall’s observations of the chimpanzees making and using tools to extract termites from mounds. Goodall was the first to document their process of modifying a twig, dipping it into the insects’ underground tunnels, and extracting the twig covered in termites to eat, which was termed “termite-fishing” (Goodall 1970). At first, many scientists did not believe that Goodall had actually witnessed tool use and tool modification in another species. However, later photo documentation of the process verified to the world that humans were no longer defined solely by their ability to use tools. The most famous quote on this matter came from Louis Leakey himself when he said, “Now we must redefine man, redefine tool, or accept chimpanzees as humans!” (Jane Goodall Institute 2016). Over time, Goodall witnessed the chimpanzees using leaves as tools for other tasks, such as soaking up water, cleaning themselves, and wiping wounds (Lindsey 1999).

In addition, Goodall discovered that chimpanzees had a rich vocal and nonvocal system of communication. Although the vocalizations of the chimpanzees did not form a complete language, Goodall documented approximately 30 distinct calls (Goodall and Berman 1999). After spending considerable time with each chimpanzee, she was able to identify individuals based on their vocal characteristics and learned the meaning of several vocalizations from context. She believed that these signals could also be used while conveying psychological and emotional state and never doubted the chimp’s ability to feel emotions that other scientists reserved for humans (Goodall 1986; Goodall and Bekoff 2002). She witnessed the chimpanzees building the nests they slept in at night, playing in the rain, and watched them mourn the death of a family member.

Goodall began to publish her novel findings and was featured in a National Geographic television program, which resulted in her international celebrity status (Lindsey 1999). This positively affected the Jane Goodall Institute and ultimately the Gombe Stream Research team. Continued funding permits the Tanzanian researchers, accompanied by students from all over the world, to continue Goodall’s work by studying narrow research topics in great depth (Jane Goodall Institute 2016). Today, the Gombe Stream Research Centre hosts many researchers whose study topics include health, genetics, mother-infant relationships, maternal stress, personality, social networks, cooperation, aggression, aging, menopause, and conservation using spatial mapping technology (de Donno et al. 2015). This research center has over 55 years of continuous data on over 300 chimpanzees from three populations and has been part of over 400 publications. Goodall has especially inspired many women to pursue primatology, conservation, and wildlife research. Additional research is conducted at Jane Goodall Institute’s Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center to better understand many aspects of chimpanzee health and behavior and ultimately to provide tools to better protect them.

Conservation Work

The 1986 “Understanding Chimpanzees” conference in Chicago was a transformative experience for Goodall (Goodall et al. 2009). Chimpanzee experts from around the world presented their research, but underlying the entire conference were conversations on the increasingly threatened state of chimpanzees in the wild (Goodall 2001). A session on conservation reviewed the unsustainable deforestation occurring across the chimpanzees’ range, the increased consumption of bushmeat, the sale of infant chimps into captivity, and their poor living conditions once there (Goodall 2001; Goodall et al. 2009). After the conference, Goodall felt she could no longer prioritize fieldwork while her voice and celebrity status could help the chimpanzees’ many dire plights (Goodall et al. 2009; Peterson 2006). The end of the conference marked the founding of the Committee for the Conservation and Care of Chimpanzees (CCCC) by 30 conference attendees at the top of their field, and Goodall reborn as an animal welfare advocate (Goodall 2001).

Goodall began actively traveling as a lecturer and activist an average of 300 days a year (Jane Goodall Institute 2016). She gave presentations to schools and corporations, attended conferences, fundraisers and meetings, solicited funds, met with politicians, and attempted to convince environmental group leaders to take a more active role in conservation efforts (Goodall 2001). Although the Jane Goodall Institute was still being used to support wild chimpanzee research in Gombe, its mission began to expand with the creation of the CCCC, and it gradually became recognized as a leader in the conservation nonprofit sector (Goodall 2001; Pratt 1997). Today the institute supports programs in conservation science, research, advocacy, protecting chimpanzees and other great apes, public awareness, environmental education, healthy habitats, and has initiated two successful community-based outreach programs: Roots & Shoots and TACARE.

Roots & Shoots is a grassroots service program that aims to foster respect, compassion, and understanding in young people, as they work to increase the wellbeing of the human community, animal welfare, and the local environment (Goodall 2002). The program’s name was symbolic in that it described the strong, foundational aspect of roots that were everywhere, and the indomitable nature of a young tree that seems weak at first but is capable of growing up to break through brick in order to reach the sun (Goodall 2002; Peterson 2006). The grassroots program that began with 12 children in Dar es Salaam now has Roots & Shoots clubs in nearly 100 countries with over 5,800 reported conservation and service projects (Jane Goodall Institute 2017). The program seeks to empower youth and build strong, introspective, purposeful, empathetic, adaptable, optimistic, inspirational leaders who think critically and work well as a team, and maintains that every individual can make a difference. While initially designed and implemented for students from elementary school to university, there are now Roots & Shoots members of all ages, all around the world (Goodall 2002; Jane Goodall Institute 2017).

The Lake Tanganyika Catchment Reforestation and Education (TACARE) Program was specifically targeted towards individuals who lived in the same areas as wild chimpanzees (Lindsey 1999). By offering courses in sustainable natural resource management, TACARE empowers locals to protect the land, plant nurseries, and become financially independent. In this way, TACARE addresses the socio-economic needs of people in the local community, as well as chimpanzees’ need to have accessible habitat, and the environment’s need to recover. The program addresses humanitarian concerns such as community development, encourages forestry initiatives such as tree planting, teaches sustainable agricultural practices, initiates health projects such as family planning and reproductive education, and introduces the Roots & Shoots program to local youth (Lindsey 1999).

Goodall has improved the lives of many human and animal communities around the world. Most notably, she has created multiple sanctuaries for chimpanzees orphaned due to the bushmeat trade (Goodall and Berman 1999; Lindsey 1999). In addition, the Jane Goodall Institute has helped improve the quality of care for animals in low-income zoos, particularly in developing countries. The ChimpanZoo Project called for much-needed behavioral analysis of captive chimpanzee populations. With this, Goodall aimed to compare wild chimpanzee behaviors with behavioral reports from their captive counterparts. By discovering the needs of captive chimps, such as larger enclosures, social interaction, and environmental enrichment, ChimpanZoo continues to help improve chimpanzee exhibits all over the world (Lindsey 1999).

After touring a medical research laboratory in 1987, Goodall created a list of minimum requirements needed for the wellbeing of research chimpanzees. While these requests were initially dismissed, Goodall’s basic requirements (i.e., larger cages and social interaction) were slowly incorporated into the industry (Goodall 2001; Peterson 2006). Goodall continued to persist, and as of 2015, the National Institute of Health (NIH) announced the retirement of all biomedical research chimps. Today, all chimpanzee medical experimentation has ended, and any remaining chimps in labs are being transported to chimp sanctuaries or retirement centers (Golden 2017). While Goodall is especially passionate about improving the treatment of chimpanzees (and other animals) in captivity, she does not condone extremist activist groups, as she feels that polar opposition does not facilitate a conversation for a sustainable future. While violence may have evolved as part of our nature, Goodall believes we can (and should) choose to solve problems peacefully (Goodall and Berman 1999). Instead of pointing blame, Goodall focuses on hope.

Goodall has authored books conveying a more humane view of wildlife for children (The Chimpanzee Family Book) and argues for a deeper connection between people and the natural world (The Ten Trusts). She believes that understanding more about nature enables us to care, and it is that caring that ultimately enables us to take action (Goodall and Bekoff 2002). The Ten Trusts (2002) calls for a more compassionate attitude towards animals from scientists and the general public. The “trusts” ask us to acknowledge that (1) we are part of the animal world (and that we are not the only animals with emotions such as fear, joy, embarrassment, anger, love, sadness, or grief), (2) there is a value in every being (animal or plant) which deserves our respect, (3) that we can learn from many species and (4) should teach a love and respect for nature at a young age, (5) aim for a smaller carbon footprint, (6) work towards reversing extinction by reducing pollution and man-made noise, (7) refrain from using harmful methods to study animals, (8) take action, (9) help conservationists, and (10) remember to have hope.

In other novels, Goodall explores the idea of hope in the modern world. She details the capacity of humans to rescue many endangered species from near extinction (Hope for the Animals and Their World, Reason for Hope). Although Goodall was initially skeptical of captivity, she now embraces the immense benefits that captive facilities, their associated breeding programs, and teams of researchers can have on animals, especially those who are critically endangered or extinct in the wild. Goodall lists her reasons for hope as “(1) the human brain; (2) the resilience of nature; (3) the energy and enthusiasm that is found or can be kindled among young people worldwide; and (4) the indomitable human spirit” (Goodall and Berman 1999, p. 233).

During her lectures and invited talks, Goodall is known for presenting her “symbols of hope,” such as a California condor feathers, which she carries with a permit (Goodall et al. 2009). She also travels with a leaf from a very resilient old tree, another feather from a peregrine falcon thought to be locally extinct for 100 years, and a paw print cast of one of the last wild black-footed ferrets believed to exist in 1986. These items not only carry symbolic importance for Goodall, but are used in her speeches to convey that many species can come off the endangered, and even extinct, species lists. She believes that too often we are told about species dying, but we do not celebrate the successful ventures of breeding programs and recovery efforts with the same vigor (Goodall et al. 2009). Currently, Goodall offers a class about conservation through an online education platform (MasterClass 2017). Her syllabus includes lessons on animal behavior and intelligence, anthropogenic effects on the environment, conservation biology, tips on presentations, how to advocate without hostility, and Goodall’s reasons for hope in the next generation of conservationists.


The research that Goodall began in 1960 has snowballed into a global research effort to understand and protect primates and their environment. With discoveries including meat-eating, tool-making, termite-fishing, child-rearing, aggression, and affiliative behavior, Goodall began a legacy of research that continues today, and has taught the world about our closest evolutionary cousins. She has authored several books, from scientific to autobiographical, such as the best-seller, In the Shadow of Man (1971). Much like her career, her book titles have shifted focus to encourage readers to stay hopeful and active in the face of animal extinctions and the changing world. As she calls out to the public to rise in action, she also calls out to scientists: Goodall believes that there is still a great deal of work to do towards implementing compassionate research methods and improving the welfare of animals in captivity, as well as the habitats of their wild counterparts (Goodall and Bekoff 2002).

Goodall’s continued efforts to improve the quality of life for all animals, communities, and environments have earned her more than 60 awards and recognitions (Doak 2015). Among them are the San Diego Zoological Society’s Gold Medal of Conservation, the J. Paul Getty Wildlife Conservation Prize, the Animal Welfare Institute Schweitzer medal, the National Geographic Society Centennial Award, and the Kyoto Prize for Basic Sciences, which is the Japanese equivalent to the Swedish Nobel Prize. In 2002, she was recognized as a United Nations Messenger of Peace and was granted the title of Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 2003 (Welty 2011).

Although her conservation work has taken her far away from her beloved chimps, and Gombe, Goodall’s peaceful-yet-powerful actions, rational outspoken mentality, and ethical integrity are an inspiration for so many around the world. The Jane Goodall Institute has blossomed in recent years with programs to monitor and protect habitats that are critical to the chimpanzees, educate local communities, raise awareness, promote sustainable consciousness, and encourage grassroots efforts among youth. Through her lectures, classes, advocacy, and institution, she has impacted the environment and future generations of conservationists to come.



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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Southern MississippiHattiesburgUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Lauren Highfill
    • 1
  1. 1.Eckerd CollegeSt. PetersburgUSA