Jane had a daunting assignment – find and get close to wild chimpanzees, documenting their behaviour to shed light on our own evolutionary past. She rose to the occasion, very quickly making the first observations of any wild animals making and using tools. Jane also observed chimps hunting bushpigs and other animals, disproving the widely held belief that chimpanzees were primarily vegetarians.
Through subsequent years, Jane opened the world’s eyes to the complexity and richness of chimpanzee communities, writing of close family bonds, dominance struggles among males, human-like communications such as pats on the back and hugs, and much more. Today the Gombe chimps are perhaps the world’s best-known, and the Gombe research programme represents the world’s longest continuous wildlife study. JGI’s Gombe Stream Research Centre is a hub of scientific inquiry for researchers from all over the world.
In the 1980s, rampant deforestation and its effects on the chimpanzees in Africa compelled Jane to shift her focus from research to conservation. She began traveling the world speaking about the amazing beings she’d come to know so well. Here and there, she learned of individual chimpanzees in need, many orphaned by poachers and being sold on the black market or kept chained in backyards as “pets”. As a result, the Institute’s sanctuary programme was born.