Interview Magazine asked me to interview Dr Jane Goodall for an upcoming issue. I’ve known Jane since the 1980s. I got to know her better in the decade I was married to Ted Turner who has long been a friend and supporter of her foundation. I always knew when he was on the phone with her because he’d answer the phone and start howling like a chimp.

I am in awe of the work she has done over the decades, but none more so than her program called TACARE (TakeCare), which she first told me about 2 years ago at a fundraiser in Pasadena. (She spends more than 300 days a year traveling, speaking and fundraising.)


TACARE is a community-based conservation project. The idea for it came to Jane in ’94 when she flew in a small plane over the vast Gombe Ecosystem which contains Gombe National Park where she has studied chimps since 1960. There below her was the park, like an oasis, but where once there had been a vast unbroken forest, the rest of the ecosystem had been turned into bare hills. Gone were all the trees, cut down by people desperate for land to grow food on and wood to burn or sell. The habitat that the chimps depended on was in grave danger!


This is not a picture of what Jane Goodall saw in 1994. It’s what I saw recently saw and photographed from a plane as we were coming in to land in Salt Lake City. This is what a copper mine has done to the mountains and natural habitat. We all need to look out of plane windows more often in order to catch a glimpse of the horrific reality we can’t often see on the ground.)

Everything in the Gombe Ecosystem was out of kilter because of population growth—too many people and not enough arable land, trees, food or water to sustain them. Jane saw immediately that she couldn’t save the chimps when the people living around their park were starving. She rounded up a team of local Tanzanians experienced in forestry, agriculture, water and health issues and they met with 12 villages surrounding Gombe Park to hear directly from villagers as to what they wanted and needed to improve their lives.

This was what really caught my attention when she first told me about the project. You see, all too many of the biggest funders/philanthropists (I won’t name names much as I’d like to) send in “experts” who are foreigners, who don’t listen to the people on the ground who are most impacted, who impose what they think should be done. And the problems aren’t solved sustainably. For instance, to stop malaria, toxic-chemical-laced mosquito nets were sent to countries where malaria is a problem without knowing that village people use the nets to fish, thereby unwittingly poisoning their waters.

Jane Goodall and her team, on the other hand, partnered with the villagers to design a holistic plan to train the local people to improve their lives in an environmentally sustainable way with agro-forestry, restoring fertility to over-used farmland without using chemical fertilizers, etc. Seeds planted in the ‘90s are now 20 feet tall trees and TACARE works in 52 villages where around 350,000 people live. The Greater Gombe Ecosystem which is home to more than half of Tanzania’s 2,000 wild chimpanzees is being brought back to life. A win-win…the chimps’ habitat is being protected by the local people themselves—they’ve learned how interwoven their long term survival is– and the lives of villagers have been vastly improved. With support from USAID, the Norwegian Government and individuals around the world, TACARE has also brought healthcare, family planning, scholarships for girls education and micro-credit opportunities, particularly for women, into the villages. (When women and girls are educated and able to bring in money to the family they tend to want fewer babies and can negotiate contraceptive use from a position of strength).

This is the transformative template that Jane Goodall and her JG Institute have created. They have replicated it in Uganda, the DRC, Congo-Brazzaville and Senegal and are ready to be scaled up and transferred to millions of people in other rural areas.

This template may well also be a road to peace in many African countries: when rebel soldiers, some as young as 8 and 10 years old, have an opportunity to earn a living through eco-farming, fishing, eco-tourism and such, they are more apt to lay down their guns.

Jane Goodall is known as the “lady who works with chimps.” Yes, and she’s so much more. A woman who understand to her core that we are all interdependent.

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  1. What a wonderful tale of success! Has Jane’s tactic of bringing prosperity to surrounding villages been tried when it comes to stopping elephant and rhino poaching around Africa? Or is that a different kettle of fish altogether?

  2. I’ve always been a great admirer of hers and continually astounded by what she has accomplished..

  3. Jane – You so eloquently brought Jane Goodall’s “why” to life in your interview. Since you are a shero to so many of us, would you mind sharing how you understand your purpose and cause to life?

  4. Hi, Jane. This woman’s work is tireless and must come from the deepest inner recesses of her great big heart. And she is so right – educating people in self-sustainability – letting them realise they CAN make a difference, albeit in short steps – is the way forward, rather than paying lip-service to such very real problems with a wad of cash alone. A fascinating and dedicated woman indeed.

  5. She must have some absolutely fascinating stories to tell. And thank you for sharing this information.

  6. Hi Jane!

    Please see my profile picture. I really want you to see our little munchkins first picture!

  7. Hi Jane,
    It’s wonderfully reassuring to read this post. I had lost sight of what Jane Goodall was up to. So, good to know she is still so energized and passionate. And, I applaud you for continuing to fight the good fight. Those of us~ leading ordinary lives but doing our best to make a difference, appreciate what you are doing on a larger scale. it all adds up, though!
    There are a lot of things I’d like to get on my “high horse” about~ including “The Legends” interview with Gloria Steinem , taken off the Lands End sight because of her pro-choice position (although, there was nothing political in the piece).
    Update~ I did “go for it” and went to both dinners, thanks to your encouragement. And, guess what? We were invited to play “paddle tennis” in the cold, last Friday night. How could I say no, when you said yes to tennis…lol. It was fun and I’m happy I didn’t go to my default NO!

  8. Jane,
    Thanks for the insightful article…. One question, when do you sleep???

  9. Hi Jane !
    it is great life lesson ! Thank’s for this information.
    Very interesting !

  10. Wonderfull article! I know about Jane trough articles, in some American Magazine, like Vanity Fair, and TV. while living in NYC. I admire her so much for her work and her courage to do this incredible job with the chimps!.I wish there were some Brazilian doing a similar job in the Amazon Jungle!.xxx

  11. Joyful! In a week chock-full of articles on racism, terrorism, and grown men arguing like five year-olds, this is such a refreshing and joyful discovery. I’ve long admired Jane and often thought how lucky she is to have dedicated so much of her life to these creatures and the planet.

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