Earth Sublime

Friday, March 09, 2007

A tete-a-tete with Dr Jane Goodall.

As I made my way to the British Council Library in Chennai, I was pretty excited. After all, I had the opportunity to meet and interview Jane Goodall, renowned primatologist, who was in India to participate in the Wildscreen festival, where wild life film makers would be airing their films.

Dr. Jane looked prim and propah and as the interview commenced, I told her that my husband was a big fan of hers. This was her first visit to Chennai, her first visit to India being when she came to Bangalore, 4 years ago.

She was accompanied by a Mr H, who has visited 57 countrries in 10 years and has made the acquaintance of 3 million people; he is in fact a stuffed monkey toy and was gifted to her by a visually impaired magician called Gary Haun.

As a young girl, Jane read books about animals and about Africa and was 11 years old when she read about Tarzan. In fact, she was rather jealous of Jane and thought that she would make a better mate for Tarzan!

A school friend invited her to Nairobi and it was there that she met Loius Leker, Curator of the National Museum who was impressed by her intelligence. Along with her mother, Loius was the one person who inspired her to realise her dreams.

Recalling the memories of her first visit to the Gombe National Park, Jane says, “I remember rowing in a boat with my mother on lake Tanganyika, which is situated at the edge of the park. On one side, were the thickly forrested mountain slopes and as we put up our old army tent, it seemed so surreal. I wondered how I was going to find the chimpanzees.”

Ask her to name her five favourite chimps and out tumble these names – David, Old Flo, Safina, Freud and Fifi. Of these, only Safina and Freud are alive.

Many have asked the primatologist whether she had chalked out a strategy for the kind of success she has been able to achieve. She is quick to retort that things just happened and she did not plan anything.

Dr Jane would have been content to spend her remaining life giving lectures had she not seen the inhuman treatment meted out to animals in a film documentary in 1986 in America. After that, she turned animal activist and conservationist.

She feels that Indians are now realising the need to look after and conserve the environment. As she puts it, there is a new concern that is emerging for the environement. In fact, she even plans to start a Jane Goodall institute in India.

Her message to the people is that we should strive to make the world a better place to live in.
As the interview concluded, I could only applaud the courage of this remarkable women and came back rather awe-struck.


  • At 5:52 PM, March 09, 2007 , Blogger Prof Reena said...

    I have been a great admirer of Jane since 1979, when I started teaching Animal Behaviour at the University of Rajasthan,Jaipur,India.I read all her articles published in National geographic, Have seen all TV prog on Discovery/Animal Planet and of course on National Geo. channels.
    I salute to her for her work.
    Professor Reena Mathur

  • At 2:02 AM, September 23, 2008 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Dear Madam,

    It's been almost 18 years that I left Jaipur but till today remain one of your admirers and remember each and every professor from Zoology Dept. I was in the same batch with Johnson George, Nupur Gangwal and Ratna Saxena. Yes I am Jaishree Biswas (nee Routh)who used to stop by several times in your lab/office to get advice on pursuing higher studies in the US.

    I came across your blog while my son was doing a project for his school on Dr. Jane Goodall. My immediate reaction was "I know Prof. Reena Mathur and I was her student". I tried looking for your email address from the University of Rajasthan alumni list but didn't get too far. I decided to reply to your blog instead. If you happen to read this posting please drop me a line at I will be looking forward to your email.



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