This week, the Gombe Masito Ugalla ecosystem was designated as an official Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). These reserves reconcile biodiversity conservation with human activity through the use of sustainable natural resources. This designation is the first international recognition of Gombe since the government of Tanzania gave national park status to what is now Gombe Stream National Park in 1968.

Dr Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, and United Nations Messenger of Peace remarked about the news saying:
“It is wonderful news. I hope that it will lead to more recognition of a truly unique area that is home to almost all of Tanzania's remaining chimpanzee population as well as for many other animals and their habitats. Hopefully the added recognition of its importance will attract more funding to improve conservation efforts, and to improve the lives of local communities, and thus create new partners in conservation. A site that has been crucial for chimpanzee conservation for almost six decades, Gombe has been protected by a network of partners led by the Jane Goodall Institute through the organisation’s hallmark style of community - centred conservation which began in the region nearly thirty years ago. “Conserving the biodiversity and the management of natural resources in these ecosystems is a prerequisite for sustainable development,” declared UNESCO Director - General Audrey Azoulay. Through collaboration with 74 villages surrounding Gombe National Park, the Institute’s programmes have advanced habitat and species conservation through land - use planning, participatory forest management, livelihoods supported by the sustainable use of natural resources, environmental education, and public awareness campaigns.

While the naming of a Biosphere Reserve is based on the region’s integration of sustainable natural resource use; it is also informed by science and traditional knowledge. Ms. Azoulay continues, “They [Biosphere Reserves] facilitate the sharing of knowledge, promote the interaction between science and society and help bring concrete improvements to the lives of local populations.” It has been nearly sixty years since Dr Goodall began her pioneering study of the wild chimpanzees of Gombe Stream National Park, research that continues to this day. This research has taught us so much about our closest relative in the animal kingdom, as well as the habitat they rely on and other species living alongside chimpanzees in Gombe's dense forests. It continues to do so through generations of scientists who have followed in Dr Goodall’s footsteps and who have helped inform the naming of Gombe as a biosphere reserve.