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Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be Jane Goodall? This GreenHero has been working to protect chimps for 50 years, when she was just a young woman without a formal education in conservation. Today, she has travelled the world, and her experiences have changed significantly.

No longer working for long periods of time directly with the chimps, her work now is about sprouting change in people and youth around the world. Take a peek into a day in the life of Jane Goodall, and see how her experiences have changed from the 1960’s to today.

By Jane Goodall

Jane recounts a typical day spent at Gombe in the 1960’s:

Photo credit: The Jane Goodall Institute

I get up at 6:45am, or an hour earlier if I’m going to un-nest the chimps (un-nesting is when you clamber back to where you left the chimps the night before and sit beneath the nest, waiting for movement). From my house on the beach I can get to the chimps wherever they are. They get up slowly one after the other, sit for a while, then wander off and start to feed.

Breakfast is usually a piece of bread and a cup of coffee, and I don’t bother with lunch when I’m out. Some of the wild fruit chimps eat are quite tasty when ripe, though most are horribly astringent. There isn’t really anything that I’ve ever craved when living in the bush. I’ve been lucky in that it’s very easy for me to adjust. My one luxury is music: Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Mahler, Sibelius, and so on.

It can be exhausting climbing high, far and fast, around 3 pm you feel very weary because of spending a lot of the day on your stomach, crawling, with vines catching your hair.

At dusk, the chimps nest. It’s lovely in the sunset after a hot day. The birds sing. It’s quiet. The mother will play with her babies; they’ll play up in the branches and come to her arms when it gets dark, which is around 7:30 pm.

When they’ve nested, I’ll pick my way home. I’ll jump into Lake Tanganyika and the clear fresh water makes all my bruises, aches and tiredness go away.

I’ll cook something like beans, onions and tomatoes over an open fire. Day-time cooking at Gombe requires House Rule Number #1: keep the door shut because the baboons push past you to get to the food.

Jane recounts a typical day today:

Sadly, today I am very seldom able to spend time in Gombe. Since 1986, I haven’t stayed anywhere longer than three weeks. These days I sometimes wonder where I am when I wake up. On my last lecture tour I rarely spent two nights in one place. There are lectures, new people to meet, receptions, and press conferences.

A typical non-African day is spent in airplanes, lobbying, writing letters and sorting slides. People often recognize me because of the National Geographic Society, so I always carry brochures from the Jane Goodall Institute.

When in England I still stay in Bournemouth where I lived with my extended family during my childhood. Breakfast there is at 9 am, which is great for me because I can get in three hours’ work beforehand.

In the afternoon there is more writing, a peaceful tea with the family, a walk with the dog, then supper, and then more work.

I often have problems sleeping, though. I suppose I’m trying to do too many things…

– Jane Goodall

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