Sunday, February 28, 2010

the Jane Goodall Institute

For my birthday, Joey gave me 2 books, Beyond Innocence and Through a Window, by Jane Goodall.  They are both autobiographical reflections of her life, work, and lessons learned, while spending time observing the chimpanzees of Gombe.  She has always been a hero of mine and will remain someone who I aspire to be more like in my daily work and ambitions as well as my outlook on the world.  She is truly an amazing person.


I finished Through a Window recently and, while reading the book, was immediately drawn into the world in which I dreamed of living in as a young girl.  For me, simply coexisting with animals in their natural habitat and observing how their society works and correlates to our own seemed, and honestly still seems (if Joey would be able to follow), like the dream of a lifetime.  Through her hard work, patience, and determination, she has become a huge influence on today's wildlife research, education, and conservation.  Though her main work has been primarily and most famously with the chimpanzees of Gombe, her compassion for animals and her influence in wildlife conservation has helped to reach beyond the chimpanzee communities and outward to the Animal Kingdom in general.

One of the chapters in this book, "The Exploitation of Non-Human Animals", addresses the issues concerning animals being used for science and the conditions for which they are being housed and experimented upon.  The conditions of these poor animals are often beyond inhumane and are sometimes unnecessary as many research studies duplicate previously researched data, and some research is simply for the sake of gaining knowledge and not intending to be used specifically for a purpose, such as working towards curing a disease.  The growth of science is necessary, however, with the rapidly growing advancements in the developments of techniques used for research, in vitro testing, tissue culture, computer simulation, etc.,  alternatives for animals and their inhumane treatment within laboratories is obviously a cruelty in which humanity can easily correct if we decide to take action and show our compassion and concern for these issues and their importance.  In one section of the book she approaches the complaint about the costs of introducing humane living conditions to those animals being used for medical research or research studies.
'Look at your life-style, your house, your car, your clothes.  Think of the administrative buildings in which you work, your salary, your expenses, the holidays you take.  And, after thinking about those things, then tell me that we should begrudge the extra dollars spent in making a little less grim the lives of the animals used to reduce human suffering'
 I believe that as humans, we often forget that we ourselves are animals.  We are a dominant species because of our intellect and what we are able to do and feel with the growth of that intellect.  However, we should not be so arrogant as to consider ourselves above the rest of the animal world simply because we are better able to adapt an environment to our needs and dominate other species, but instead, reach out and offer our assistance and compassion towards wildlife and their habitats that are steadily floundering due to humanities mark on their lives.

This book was informative, inspiring, and enlightening, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about the habits of the chimpanzees society and how it correlates to our own, as well as many other insights into the world through a chimpanzees eyes.  When I was around 15 years old, I was able to hold a baby chimpanzee through an exotic animal training group that came to do a promotional event at Blockbuster. Though, looking back on it, I disagree with the exploitation of Angel, the chimp, who was dressed in leopard print underwear and had been trained to smile on command for the camera, I was able to discover the uncanny likeness of a chimpanzees hand to that of a humans.  When I touched her small little hand, if I had not been looking, I would have thought that I was holding a child's hand... the skin of a human.  This may not be a huge revelation to anyone else, but I remember at the time feeling simply astonished at the likeness of our hands.  Later, I found out that, along with Gorillas and Orangutans, chimpanzees DNA have only a 1% difference to that of our own.  Crazy, right?  The world is a beautifully complex and bizarre place.


P.S. - you can find out much more information and more on how you can help out and take action at www.janegoodall.org.

2 comments:

Crispin Glover said...

Good read, Megan. I'll be sure not to dissect any of your primate friends for my newest film, "What is that?"

John Carr said...

That explains why you chose Joey...he is the closest thing to a chimpanzee you could find.

The book does sound interesting, and I will try to read it. We have, indeed, undervalued and underappreciated our primate cousins.

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