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Birthdays are special times of celebration and unless it’s one of your first four or five they’re also an opportunity to reflect. A chance to cast your mind back to birthday punctuation marks, milestone birthdays, even tipping points. Famed primatologist, Jane Goodall, turned conservation crusader, celebrates one of those punctuation marks on Friday April 3rd ; she turns 86 with the strength of purpose and passion most of us wish we had when we turned 36 years old. Ironically, Jane’s birthday is also a celebration, a punctuation mark on my own timeline.

"F" family of Chimpanzee group, Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania

Jane Goodall’s famous “F” family of Chimpanzees from Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. Fifi left holds little Faustino, her youngest son at the time, and daughter Flossi on her right (circa 1991). For a few weeks I got to know a family like no other, and at the same time a family exactly like all others.

 

Jane introduced me to my extended Hominid family. That is, because of her words and our evening dinner talks in Gombe Stream (National Park), it was the first time I thought of myself as an ape. As a consequence, I began moving and acting more consciously as a member of this amazing family. Each year on Jane’s birthday, I’m reminded of that connection. It has become an annual punctuation mark, reminding me how I fit in a larger global community and the importance of understanding that role for myself. GLOBIO’s evolution, and the foundation of the new role we play in conservation awareness, focused on great apes, was seeded through Jane and my Gombe Stream experience. As a consequence, the impact GLOBIO has on people seeing and understanding the importance of great apes is in large part owed to this extraordinary woman.

Jane Goodall book Through A Window

Jane Goodall’s book Through A Window featured Gerry’s photography from Gombe Stream in 1990.

Jane stepped ashore thirty years before I did and over those three decades what she saw, recorded and shared stunned not only the world of primatology, but the entire world. Like Jane, I pulled ashore at Gombe Stream because of chimpanzees. Reflecting on her birthday, I’ve come to think we shared a naivety about how that chimp-filled rainforest we first stared into, would change the course of both our lives. Her days there were certainly longer, years longer, but the experience was equally influential in defining our futures; A tipping point for us both in the forest of Tanzania.

So in wishing Jane happy birthday I also thank her for changing my life, my perspective, and my direction — as her amazing 86 years has done for so many others.

Happy Birthday Jane!

— Gerry Ellis, Exec, Director

 

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