Jane Goodall, scientist and conservation advocate, says chimpanzee populations like those she has studied for nearly the past 50 years, as well as other African wildlife, are in trouble.
Goodall is famous for research that discovered many aspects of mankind's closest relatives, including chimps' social arrangements, emotions and habits. One of the most startling of her findings was that it is not true that humans alone make tools; she observed and reported on chimpanzees shaping tools out of twigs to extract presumably tasty termites from their mounds.
Since that discovery in 1960 she has become world renowned, speaking for the protection of the planet and its denizens.
Her visit to Utah is hosted by the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, University of Utah campus, in conjunction with a display of nature paintings by Susan Swartz.
Goodall will speak tonight at Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, 7 to 9 p.m., on "Peace with Nature: Finding Connections." Tickets may be purchased through arttix.org, and proceeds will support the environmental humanities graduate program at the U. and the Jane Goodall Institute.
Goodall showed up for a press conference Monday in the Museum of Fine Arts toting a stuffed toy chimp with a banana. As the meeting began, she applauded a presentation by sixth-graders from Morningside Elementary School in Holladay, who belong to the "Roots and Shoots" organization that Goodall founded to inspire conservation.
Asked how the wild chimpanzee population is faring, she replied, "Still going downhill at the moment." In parts of Africa, like Tanzania, the problem is that so many people live in the area that chimpanzees are losing habitat to deforestation.
"In other places," Goodall said, "it's the bush-meat trade." This is the killing of native species like chimpanzees for food. The killing is not the subsistence hunting that people of the region have done for hundreds of years, it's commercial, with some of the meat shipped overseas.
A lot of money changes hands in the bush-meat business, she said.
"Bush meat is the number-one threat in this Congo basin area," Goodall said.
"They're shooting mothers now, which they wouldn't do in the old days." When a mother chimpanzee is killed, for hunters it's like killing the goose that laid the golden egg, she said. Hunters don't bother with the babies because there isn't enough meat on them, and many orphans are sheltered at the Jane Goodall Institute.
Part of the reason for Goodall's almost incessant traveling and speaking is to "try to raise the funds that we need" for the institute.
In the region of Tanzania where the institute is located, "some of the villagers are letting the land regenerate," Goodall said. The program, which has been called the best of its kind in Africa, could be exported to other parts of the continent. She said the institute has a wonderful relationship with a coffee company to help the project.
When people ask how they can help with conservation, she noted, "I say, 'I can't tell you how to help, but if you want to help you'll find a way.'"
The Morningside sixth-graders, using posters, plastic bags and other props, told how they are working for change.
Danielle Parker explained that plastic shopping bags pose an environmental hazard, both in terms of waste plastic that takes many decades to deteriorate and because animals that may eat the bags will die.
According to Rachel Jepsen, a great amount of air pollution is released through driving. For Utahns, she said, air pollution is "like two years shaved off our lives." The Roots and Shoots students started an anti-idling campaign, hoping to reduce the pollution emitted by idling vehicles.Parker DeHoll said that one of the new compact fluorescent light bulbs can prevent 500 pounds of air pollution because less coal must be mined to light it. He added, "We've been working with energy specialists from the Granite School District" to reduce energy use at Morningside.