On April 3, Jane Goodall turns 80. Her work in behavioral primatology, for which the world first came to know her, focused on the chimpanzees of Gombe, a small forest reserve (now a national park) on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika, in Tanzania.
She began her chimp studies there in July 1960 and continued until 1986. By then she had become acutely aware of the threats facing wild chimpanzees and of the sufferings of chimps held in captivity for medical research. (See “Being Jane Goddall”)
So she left the satisfactions of doing field biology and became an activist. For almost three decades now she has spent most of her time on the road, lecturing, speaking with schoolchildren, testifying in public, using her gentle but forceful suasion on government officials, world leaders, other scientists, and anyone else she might meet.
Much of her effort is channeled through the Jane Goodall Institute and its programs, such asRoots & Shoots (involving young people especially in efforts to mitigate the human impact on the natural world) and TACARE (promoting conservation-related development in villages surrounding Gombe and elsewhere). She also continues to write—her new book is Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder From the World of Plants.
But sometimes even a dinner conversation with a key decision-maker (as she explains below) can yield important results. National Geographic spoke with Jane shortly before her birthday.
Q: Eighty years old. It seems a good time for looking forward.
A: [Laughs.] Somebody asked me the other day at a lecture—they said, “Your life has gone into these neat phases. What do you think the next phase is?”
What do you think the next phase is?
I said, “Well, I suspect it’s death.”
No, no, the next phase is something … else. What are the things you most hope still to get done?
Well, growing Roots & Shoots. I’m really passionate about that. It’s in 136 countries. As far as we can estimate, it’s approximately 160,000 active groups. We got a commitment yesterday to form an adult group among the staff of the World Bank.
And the TACARE program?
All around Gombe the villagers put land aside to be a buffer. The chimps apparently have three times more forest now than ten years ago. Some of the trees are 30 feet high. Other villagers have put land aside to make a corridor toward this other group [of chimps] in the south.
This is how it was originally conceived. Taken a long time, but you mustn’t give up. Now the villagers are our partners instead of our competitors, and they’re realizing the value of the forest to them. Better water supply and no more erosion. No more silting of the valleys, no more mudslides—which killed a few people a while back.
And now coffee? Some of the villagers are growing forest-friendly coffee?
Coffee is going super well. Over 2,000 individual farms, and they’ve got this cooperative. It’s amazing.
So Gombe National Park is less isolated now, and the chimps aren’t necessarily doomed to isolation effects, such as inbreeding?
Yes. Getting towards that. We’re still not sure if it’s going to work. But it’s all we can do. We’ve tried, and it looks as though it might be working.
About chimps in captivity, and their use in medical experiments: You began working against that years ago, yes? As it was then practiced within agencies such as the U.S. National Institutes of Health?
1986, ‘87, I suppose, was the first interaction with the National Institutes of Health about the conditions they were keeping their chimps in. We had the first conference, funded actually by HSUS [Humane Society of the United States] and NIH. It was the first time that lab people and veterinarians had sat down with [animal] welfare people and field people. Ever. I got a lot of flak for that. Sitting down with the enemy. You don’t talk to the enemy, nothing can change.
And that sort of dialogue, that engagement with “the enemy” toward better treatment of chimps, has continued? Have you pressed it with them recently?
Just last year, maybe the year before. Francis Collins is the director of the NIH. I sat next to him at dinner, and he said he didn’t know much about the chimps. Because I asked him. So of course I spent the rest of dinner telling him all about it. Bless him, he got together a committee. And at first it was very biased toward the lab people, but he let me look at it. So we added in some field people, and there was a hearing on the Hill, and I testified at it. And this committee, their finding—do you know what it was? Not one single [research] protocol involving chimps being done today is useful to human health. And so Francis Collins said that they would retire almost all the NIH chimps to sanctuary. He has been wonderful! It’s taken all that time, but we got there.
On March 9th I had an email from Rob Laidlaw, Executive Director of Zoocheck concerning a monkey in need of being rescued. A day later I received an email from someone informing me about the pending closure of a pet shop called La Faune Domestique where a lone monkey had been living for the past 27 years. Rob Laidlaw and I spoke and he confirmed, after speaking with the pet store owner, that the monkey would need a new home, otherwise he could be transferred to a small zoo or, even worse, euthanized. Zoocheck began exploring possible temporary care facilities for him while they looked for a suitable permanent sanctuary with space. As it turned out, the timing was perfect! Fauna had space and we felt this fellow deserved a few years of goodness in his life. Fauna waited while the negotiations with Zoocheck continued and at last a date was set! Mario and I were off to Quebec City to rescue Eugene.
I am not sure I even have the words to describe what horrific conditions this dear little old man named Eugene was living in. He was in a concrete cell originally intended as an aquarium. It was triangular in shape with 2 sides of concrete and a front full window where people could view him. He was on display all day long, day in and day out. He had no fresh air and no natural light. Above him was encased florescent lighting under filthy plastic panels. It was dark and dreary and it reeked. My eyes and nose were watering and running from the stench in his “home.” The floor was covered with 10-12 big boulders that were caked in dirt and waste. Urine and feces had composted and turned into a dark brown earth that had a terrible stench. In places the boulders were growing mold. He had no stimulation or toys in his concrete cell and the only other additions to his surroundings were two large tree branches, one dead Christmas tree and one circular plywood disc, which might possibly have been his bed and resting area. A big metal bucket on the floor was filled with water. I had seen photos prior to arriving, but they could not possibly convey the actual conditions. However, what I really was not at all prepared for was Eugene’s “holding area.”
Aside from his triangular concrete room, Eugene only had access to one other area–the holding area–a space he would need to go into while staff would clean his cell. Monkeys need to have a second area so they are not in contact with humans and in Eugene’s case this space was a shockingly small and dark plywood box! It was attached to the back of his cell and the small entrance was closed off with a piece of pegboard for a door. The room was 2 feet high by 5 feet long, by 18” wide and had a small strip of wire mesh on top, which, I assumed, acted as a window so they could see where he was. This plywood pen was unimaginable. An employee told us that Eugene would go into this area once per day while they cleaned.He would be fed, once a day and would eat in the dark. Everyday. It was filthy, small and narrow and one would need to remove the wooden panels with a screwdriver to be able to access it for cleaning. I could hear Eugene banging something on the sides of the box–it was a bucket on a nylon rope. They would fill this bucket with food and open the door to “the box” where he would willingly go because this was the only place he could eat. Think about that. Eugene was fed once per day in this dark box.
From a safety perspective it was ludicrous–on the door that held him in his box there were only two simple little dead bolt kind of locks with no keys–they would slide. This was completely inappropriate and provided little to no security for the humans or for Eugene.
When it was time to leave the pet store, it was like taking a prisoner of war out of his cell and away from his captors. We were all holding back the tears. The older man who owned the store and everyone there seemed to truly love this monkey, but clearly they were very misguided about Eugene’s needs and proper care. So many people and several organizations let this monkey down. Why did the appropriate organizations not use their power to fix this situation?
It is indeed time to start talking about why no one did anything.
There was a lot that could have been done for this monkey, for Eugene. His stark conditions were clearly inadequate and his long-term social isolation was something no primate should ever experience. And if that wasn’t enough, his living conditions posed a public health risk to humans as well.
Remarkably, Eugene was quite well known in the area. He wasn’t hidden away out of sight.. So why was he not helped during all those long years? Certainly local and regional SPCAs knew about Eugene and the MNR did too. Yet Eugene remained in that small room, alone, year after year, until Ontario organization Zoocheck got involved and took action. Our own Quebec organizations and government agencies dropped the ball and let Eugene down. For some reason, they neglected to help him. They also let the public down by not protecting their health and welfare either . This situation should never have gotten so bad.
To prevent risks to public health while caring for primates, there is a long list of rules and regulations that Fauna must, and do follow. I wonder why these rules and regulations were not followed by the pet shop. Even after years of complaints about this store, no one stepped in. The city and the local public health department had the power to do something and could have at least helped protect the public, including children, as well as the staff at the pet store, from the risk posed on a daily basis from Eugene and his living conditions.
Monkeys carry many diseases, including some that can be life threatening to humans. They are wild animals that can be dangerous and can cause a great deal of bodily harm, especially to a small child. There were no safety areas in the pet store, no appropriate locks, no one wore masks or gloves and staff who handled Eugene’s feces would go into the store and then handle items in the store for sale. There was no sink to wash your hands; no safety station if bodily fluids came in contact with your eyes; no tranquillizers or security weapons; there was not even a safety cage he could have been placed in had he escaped.
It took a little more than 2 hours to get the little fellow into the cage. He refused to move. What finally got him to move was the pet shop owner putting a small piece of the old dead Christmas tree from Eugene’s enclosure into the transport cage. It was the only movable thing he had in his room, other than big boulders. His traveling cage had hay on the floor, two toys and some food but this did not entice him. Once the piece of branch went in, he stepped right in the cage. The branch was the only comfort to him, a reminder of his “home” for 27 years.
This month is Monkey Month on the Fauna Facebook page. Over the years, Fauna has rescued 6 monkeys from unfortunate research facilities. There are currently 4 monkeys with us, living their lives peacefully in the monkey house. Darla and Newton, both rhesus macaques, Sophie, a cinnamon capuchin and Theo, a majestic olive baboon.
If you are interested in learning more, come by for a visit!
Recently we posted some news about Yoko on our Facebook page and as always, I was deeply touched to see how many friends our dear “Little Man” has. We have been receiving wonderful cards and letters wishing him well and many prayers to help him along. Bless you for thinking of him at this time, and for caring enough to write, these kind words. Your blessings are a comfort and a source of strength for all of us.
Yoko has been going through a difficult time, he is weak and he is very tired, one of the many conditions related to his heart failing. He is taking medication to relieve the pressure, diruetics which keep him comfortable and other medications to help him relax and give him strength. Recently Yoko decided he wanted nothing to do with some of his usual medications so we do our best to give him the essentials that will keep him as comfortable as possible. We can’t make him do anything he doesn’t want too do, so we always need his complete co-operation. He has been a surprisingly wonderful patient, making us love him even more–if that is at all possible.
When I was reading through the comments recently posted on facebook I was struck by one that I felt deserved a response from me. “ Perhaps its better to put an end to his suffering”. It is most likely a feeling shared by others and I wanted to explain and share what it is like to be the person who decides if one should live or die, and to explain the process a little so you all understand the implications.
Yoko started his decline several weeks ago. He had been getting slower and slower this past summer but he still had enough energy to discipline his boys, Jethro and Regis, to go outdoors and to have interactions with the neighbours. This certainly doesn’t happen anymore. Yoko sleeps most of the time and when he is up, he has Jethro, Regis, Petra, Chance or Rachel near him. There is always someone there by his side once he wakes and most often Regis is sleeping not too far away.
The Fauna staff of caregivers are on a palliative care schedule meaning every 30 minutes someone goes to him to see if he needs anything, to whisper his name so he knows they are there and then wait to see if he wishes to drink or eat. Fauna staff members have been fabulous; caring, loving, nurturing and kind. You would be as proud of them as I am).
There was a period in October when Yoko wanted to be on his own and not to be bothered with his family. This was mostly because it takes a lot of energy to be in a family group, he has always had a temper and not much tolerance for the daily outbursts from his family. He has also always been one of the quickest fellows here, our great and mighty warrior. Initially I had written that all that had changed, but it hasn’t really…when Yoko doesn’t want them near, he still has the power to stop them….only now he cannot chase them away. Yoko simply grunts or raises his hand, and they understand and leave. That is power.
There was a period a few weeks back when I felt Yoko should have a chance to be on his own and he seemed to be interested in that. So, we made up a bed in one of his old rooms, and waited to see if he would come in. He did come in and he did look at what we had done, he checked, he knew this would be a place where he could be alone and have all that he needed without anyone bothering him. In the past he had chosen to stay in these places, as do many of the chimps when they are not well, or not strong enough to take on the daily challenges.
Yoko turned and left the room. In that moment he decided he wanted to be with his family, endure their pesky ways and their thievery. He loves them and chose to be with them regardless of their wicked ways. He was not going to come into a room and be separated from family. He wanted to be with them more than he wanted to be with us.
I feel I had no choice but to listen to his request, even knowing how much more difficult it would be for us to care for him and for him to protect himself from the group. Yet I understand completely his desire to do just that.
He has been through great hardship in his lifetime and has had to take on men in tyvek suits shooting darts at him from all sides of his small 5’x5’x7’ cage. He experienced near death each time they shot at him and injected him to put him under anesthesia. He was forcefully injected repeatedly with many different strains of the HIV virus. Over and over he endured syringes filled with toxic chemicals until he was so weak he could endure no more. He has had his body cut open repeatedly so chunks of his liver could be removed, pieces of his lymph nodes, his bone marrow extracted, while at the same time being injected with experimental drugs to determine the damage done to his liver. Day after day, week after week, year after year, Yoko endured this torture.
He was taken from his family and friends and locked alone in a cage suspended from the ceiling. He was tortured, left alone when he was feeling dreadfully sick from the chemicals and he was forgotten.
I understand him not wanting to be alone. He wants his family with him, protecting him from us. I understand that.
So the question:
“Perhaps it’s better to put an end to his suffering. Why put him through the slow, painful shutdown of his system.? Do we not owe him more than that.?”
Please let me answer this and comment in a way that I hope we can all make sense of. I can assure you these questions are a daily struggle. I would be lieing if I said I had it all figured out, or if I knew the right thing to do. I don’t. Only God does and if God wants to take Yoko’s life, then God will. I need to cherish and protect him while he is in my care, my hands.
Perhaps it is better to put an end to his suffering, but my question is how am I to do that? I think we all feel that the medication Yoko is getting is helping with his suffering. It is what we believe and it is what we see. He seems to do better when he takes his medication. If he misses or decides he does not want it, he seems more uncomfortable.
There is only one way I could get Yoko in a room alone at this point and it would be if we injected him and put him under anesthesia. Yoko will not just present us his arm for a needle. He never sits that close to us. He is not the same as Pepper was. She wanted us to hold her hands, rub her body, and hold her. Yoko doesn’t trust us enough with that. He has been hurt in so many ways all his life and it his his right to reject us, to keep his distance and to have his private space. I love and respect him for that.
Knowing how hard it is for me to accept affection and how much I lose by not being able to accept it, I know how much he is losing too, but it is his choice and he has his people…he has so much love and affection from Regis, from Jethro, from Petra, Chance and Rachel. He is deeply, deeply loved and he is touched and hugged daily. Why would I want to take him away from them and make him stay alone in a room while he died. What would “they” think if I did that to him? We would have to dart him with a dart gun–shoot him in front of his family, take him out of the area and separate him in a room on his own while everyone looked on. I would then have to euthanize him to end his suffering.
I just cannot do that. I have thought about it. I have questioned myself. I have had discussions with my family and staff on the situation and I have made a decision.
I don’t know if it’s the right decision at all. I don’t know if this is better for Yoko or worse for him. I don’t know if it is better for his family to see him slowly decline, or should they have it over with? We have the means to euthanize Yoko, but what would that feel like at this time. Is he ready? Are they ready?
The question, “do we not owe him more than that?”
Absolutely!! We owe him so much more than we will ever be able to give him…
His freedom was taken and it can never be returned…not even in death.
He will surely go to another place, but he will not ever have had the chance to live the life he was born to live.
I believe that all of Faunas friends and supporters feel this way too…they all care enough about the chimps to want to pay them back in some small way for all they have endured; for their pain; for their losses; for their suffering. Each and everyday we care for the chimpanzees with us we are trying to give them back some of what they lost, we are trying to pay back for all the wrongs and the injustices they have had to endure. We work with organizations like NEAVS who want to end ALL animal suffering in research. We care for our beloved chimpanzee family in the best way we know how, but we can never really pay them back or erase their suffering. We owe them so much, but most of all we owe to them to never stop fighting to see the end of animal research…
I love Yoko. I love Yoko’s family. I wish Yoko was not going through this and I wish he never had to die. I wish he had never suffered the way he did in a bio medical research facility and I wish he had been free, I wish he and his family could have lived the way God intended them to live. Sadly humans tore him from his mother and put him in chains…locking him behind bars for some of the most inhumane and unimaginable tortures anyone could ever endure…
Now I pray he is surrounded by those who lov and care for him. I pray that each morning I will hear: “Everything is good in the chimp house.” I pray I will get the call “Gloria, come to the chimp house, its Yoko” How terrible is that?
I want him to be there and I want his pain to be over…but when I pray for his suffering to end, I am praying for his death. I pray he will go in the night and go peacefully. I pray Annie, Pablo, Donna Rae, Billy, Jeannie, Tommy and Pepper come oh so quietly for him at night and gently carry him off to their heaven…that is what I pray for, even if it means I will never see him again.
Please understand that I can’t do it yet. I’m helping him in everyway I can and when the moment comes where I can do more, I will. Right now he is far too present, far to aware and still so alive.
Today for the first time we went in with Yoko…he is so weak and he cannot move with his group. So, he stayed and his group reluctantly left…Petra and Regis stayed close to watch what was going on.
My sisters and my brother went in with me to take care of the area, to clean around Yoko so his family could come back and join him, instead of him having to move…we changed his bed and offered him some of his favorite items, then let him rest before his family returned. He was so happy to have them come back to him…
They have been absolutely amazing. I feel so much pain for them at this time and for their loss…he will be missed. Yoko is loved. Yoko is cherished. Yoko is still a warrior…
Tatu and Loulis, two sign-language using chimpanzees formerly housed on Central Washington University’s campus, are integrating well into their new home at the Fauna Foundation sanctuary in Quebec, according to Mary Lee Jensvold, director at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute.