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"Women Who Run with the Apes"
by Evelyn Gallardo

  With all three of these remarkable women an early fascination with animals was a first step in the path leading them to their careers. But they did more than merely study their subjects, they bonded with them. While investing decades studying our closest living relatives who share 98- 99% of our human genetic material, Dr. Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdilas, came to know them as thinking, feeling beings with distinct personalities. The trio share a burning commitment to saving the apes from extinction.

  Mass rain forest destruction is the main threat. Poachers continue to kill mother orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees to sell their young as pets or to foreign zoos. This isn't a battle that can be won from a secure seat at a university it must be won on the front lines of the rain forest where the crimes are occurring.

  Jane, Dian and Biruté are phenomenal women. Their courage, pioneering spirit, dedication and long-term commitment are qualities that shine through with a brilliance that can inspire any young girl to follow her wildest dream.  Enjoy their stories...

  If you were to visit several countries picked at random and ask people to name a well- known scientist, the answer you would most often hear is, "Dr. Jane Goodall." National Geographic articles and documentaries touting Jane's startling discoveries with the chimpanzees of Tanzania catapulted her into living rooms everywhere.

  But Jane isn't the only widely recognized female primatolgist. The movie "Gorillas in the Mist" heralded the late Dr. Dian Fossey's research among the mountain gorillas of Rwanda. Another primatologist, Dr. Biruté Galdikas, is the world's authority on the orangutans of Borneo. When National Geographic and Hallmark Hall of Fame complete a TV movie based on her life, she will become as well-known as her predecessors.

  With 73 years of field research years accumulated among them, part of the credit must go to Louis S.B. Leakey, for photo he was a mentor to all three. Leakey, a paleoanthropologist, had spent decades digging up thousands of fossils in East Africa, yet not one bone gave a clue as to how our human behavior had evolved. He thought if we studied our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans in their natural habitats, we would gain insights as to why we act the way we do. Leakey also believed women made good scientists. They are keen observers, patient and pay attention to detail. He perceived male apes would be less intimidated by women thus more readily accepting of their presence. And certainly Jane, Dian and Biruté had their close encounters of the third kind.

  What drew these women to study the apes? Why did their field research turn into a lifetime commitment where the majority of scientists spend one or two years in the field then seek tenure at a prestigious university? With our nation's science scores pitifully low and a science-is- for-men social attitude, how can young girls benefit by learning about these three dedicated women?

  As a child one of Jane Goodall's first memories was of hiding in a chicken coop for hours waiting to discover how eggs were made. She had a chimpanzee stuffed animal she adored. Her dream, to go to Africa, was realized when she earned a position Leakey's assistant secretary. When he mentioned he was looking for someone to conduct research on the chimpanzees, and was she interested, she leaped at the opportunity. Leakey thought Jane's lack of scientific background photowould be an asset. She would approach the research with an unbiased, open mind. Jane would later go on to earn a Ph.D. in ethnology from Cambridge.

  Jane first set foot at Gombe Stream in 1960. In the beginning the chimps hid whenever she approached but they soon discovered she was harmless enough and began to ignore her presence to go about their routine affairs. Jane was the first scientist to observe chimpanzees fishing for ants by stripping twigs and poking them through holes in the mounds. She was the first to observe chimpanzees eating meat. They hunted cooperatively, sharing the booty. But in Jane's opinion her most profound discovery came about though decades of mother/infant observations. What she discovered was good mothers raise daughters who in turn become good mothers. Bad mothers raise daughters who become bad mothers.

  Having grown up without a mother and role model, I confess I wasn't a very good one to my daughter in the early years. In the wild I observed female apes doting on their babies, playing with them and behaving as if they were the center of the mother's universe.

  Jane is now into her 38th year of research. She doesn't spend as much time at Gombe Stream as before. The Tanzanians have taken over much of her field research. Instead, Jane now devotes much of her time to improving conditions for chimpanzees in zoos and in laboratories. There are only 200,000 chimpanzees remaining and they are on the critically endangered list.

  Until then I thought being a good mother meant not giving your child away. When my daughter would come home from school, I'd only pay cursory attention to her while going about my business. But after watching the apes through the microcosm of my camera lens I began playing with my daughter after school and giving her 100% of my attention. I held her close and touched her whenever she walked by. I told her I loved her everyday.

  I once asked Jane, "If chimpanzees had a motto, what would it be?"  "We're much too human" was her reply. In fact, the very criteria textbooks say separate animals from humans has been challenged by Jane Goodall's discoveries. Tool use, tool-making and language were the delineators. Chimpanzees not only make "fishing poles" to catch ants, they break rocks and use them as nut crackers. But Jane also discovered, like humankind, chimpanzees have a dark side. She observed one group systematically annihilate a neighboring group by ambushing and killing them in a territorial war.

  Every school child has heard of Koko the signing gorilla. Dr. Francine Patterson has helped Koko master 1000 signs in American Sign Language. When Koko breaks something, she often names a specific human as the culprit. Imagine, at least one gorilla tells lies. We're either going to have to change the textbooks or redefine what it is to be human. continuedcont.

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