No single individual has done more for the cause of chimpanzees than Jane Goodall, who first began studying them at the Gombe Stream Reserve in Tanganyika in 1960 and whose work continues today. Through more than 40 years of observation and living closely with chimps, Goodall discovered much of what we now know about their behaviour, intelligence, communication skills, social organization and – what affects us most deeply – their close similarities to us (which are so great that some primatologists have proposed including chimpanzees in the same genus as humans). Sadly, our increased knowledge has not improved their odds for survival – destruction of habitat, poaching, the live animal trade, and the growth in the bushmeat trade have pushed chimps (and other primates) closer than ever to the brink of extinction in the wild. It is hard to remain unmoved by the tragic plight of these highly intelligent and complex creatures, but one of the strongest aspects to emerge from the site is the encouragement for action, detailing the initiatives and awareness-raising measures that can be taken to help our endangered relatives – Goodall’s message is, above all, that every individual can make a difference and help, whether it’s by becoming a chimpanzee guardian (whereby you can sponsor an orphan chimp), or by joining Goodall’s Giant Peace Dove Campaign, or becoming a member of the institute, or simply donating whatever you can (these initiatives can all be found under the section called ‘You’).
The site’s main sections are News, Jane Goodall, Chimpanzee Central, You, Store, Roots and Shoots (a program founded by Goodall which aims to inspire young people to make a difference through community-based projects), Africa Programs, and Research. Chimpanzee Central provides exhaustive information on every topic related to chimps – their behaviour, habitat, similarities to humans, conservation issues, and of course the programs and chimp populations of Gombe National Park.
There is also a list of international websites of related institutions and initiatives by country, as well as abundant links to other chimp sites and resources.
For anyone interested in the behaviour – and critically endangered status – of our closest animal relatives, as well as in Goodall’s truly inspirational life and work, this is the place to start.