Jane Goodall Sees 'Hope For Animals' Thousands of species go extinct every year, but famed biologist Jane Goodall says she refuses to give in to despair. Her latest book is Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink.
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Jane Goodall Sees 'Hope For Animals'

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Jane Goodall Sees 'Hope For Animals'

Jane Goodall Sees 'Hope For Animals'

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GUY RAZ, host:

We're back with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

Jane Goodall once said the least I can do is speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves. She's applied that motto to every single thing she does, whether it's promoting conservation projects in developing countries or protecting the chimpanzees of Tanzania. And in her new book, she writes:

Ms. JANE GOODALL (Author, "Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink"): (Reading) It's true that we're experiencing the sixth great extinction on earth with thousands of species disappearing forever every year, and while we sink into despair or anger, there is yet this feeling of hope. Reports of fascinating new species discovered or rediscovered give me new strength to face and fight the challenges that threaten our still-mysterious, still-magical planet.

RAZ: That is Jane Goodall, reading from her new book, "Hope for Animals and Their World." And Jane Goodall is here in the studio with me.

Welcome to the program.

Ms. GOODALL: Thank you.

RAZ: This is book is a series of stories about different animal species that were rescued from the brink of extinction. You describe the plight of the American whooping crane. In the middle of the last century, there were fewer than a few dozen left in the United States. Today, there are hundreds. How were they rescued?

Ms. GOODALL: It's a wonderful story. The one flock that was known was flying from Texas to somewhere unknown in Canada, and each year when they came back, there were fewer until they were reduced to no more than 27 individuals. And then finally, luckily, their breeding place was discovered, and it was decided to do a captive-breeding program, but the problem was if something like bird flu hit that flock, it would be finished.

So it was very important to start another flock in another place, but that meant teaching the young birds to follow on the route because they learn from their parents. So what they used was an ultralight, and I went to visit this project, and I got to go up in an ultralight.

RAZ: You got to fly and watched it.

Ms. GOODALL: It was one of the most amazing experiences. It's like being a bird because you're out there in the air and looking down at these beautiful birds. These are the adolescents, still with some golden, cinnamon feathers, and it's been very successful.

RAZ: I was struck by another example you write about in the book, the American burying beetle, and you write that it's easy for most people to sort of want to save cute and cuddly animals like pandas or snow leopards, but this beetle is also vital.

Ms. GOODALL: The beetle is really important because it buries carrion. So if a small bird dies, the beetle will bury it, and the beetles smell the rotting carrion from about two miles away.

They arrive. A male will bond with a female. They work together to bury the carcass. They then mate. The female lays her eggs on the carcass, but they don't leave. They make a little chamber. Mom and dad stay in the chamber until the babies hatch. They then go to the carcass and chew it up. They feed the babies, and then when that's done, they leave.

The man who's working on the burying beetle, Lou Perotti(ph), he said a lady came along, and she said: Your beetles look after their young much better than my children looked after my grandchildren. And she gave him $75,000.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAZ: Wow.

Ms. GOODALL: I mean, isn't this a lovely story? Beetles.

RAZ: How do you make the case for, you know, for insects, for beetles when, in a sense, you're competing in this marketplace for donations and for support from benefactors for, as you write, animals that are, you know…

Ms. GOODALL: (Unintelligible).

RAZ: Yeah.

Ms. GOODALL: What's so fascinating is the more I've lived and traveled and talked with people and seen with my own eyes, the more I realize how interrelated everything is, and there are stories where, you know, one little insect or plant or something becomes extinct, and it doesn't seem to matter, but it turns out that that was a major food source for another creature. And so, gradually, there's a chain reaction, and you can have an entire ecosystem collapse just because one piece was taken out, and we didn't realize what that would do.

RAZ: Now Jane Goodall, next year marks 50 years since you first went to live with the chimpanzees at Gombe National Park in Tanzania. Is that right?

Ms. GOODALL: Correct.

RAZ: You developed an emotional connection to the chimpanzees you studied, and in this book, you point out how those kinds of relationships between researcher and animal have been crucial to saving many of these species.

Ms. GOODALL: I believe that that's absolutely true. All the people that I've talked with perhaps come from a discipline where it's not considered scientific to have any kind of empathy with the animal you study. You're supposed to be cold and scientific, but they've just about all of them, sometimes it was almost like a confession: Yes, we do have a personal connection with these creatures, and we do this work because we love it and because we just couldn't bear to let them vanish.

RAZ: You are on the road now for some 300 days a year. When will you take a rest?

Ms. GOODALL: What is that word?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODALL: I don't know. I mean, it'll obviously depend on my health and how long I can keep up this absurd pace. I worry about my carbon footprint with flying everywhere, but I don't have a magic carpet. What I've learned during the rather magical adventure of writing this book is that even when we believe everything is finished, there still is hope. People have this indomitable spirit that won't give up.

RAZ: Jane Goodall's new book is called "Hope for Animals and Their World." She joined us here in the studio.

Jane Goodall, thanks for coming in.

Ms. GOODALL: Thank you.

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