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Primatologist Jane Goodall speaks out about chimpanzee attack

Jane Goodall

World-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall is speaking out on the recent tragedy involving Travis, the Connecticut chimp who attacked his owner's friend and was subsequently shot and killed by police.  Travis' case, Goodall says, should serve as a potent reminder that chimps -- no matter how human they may seem -- are not cut out to be pets. 

Travis wore clothes and even shared a bed with his owner, but "as the tragedy made clear, a chimpanzee can never be totally domesticated," says Goodall, who has been studying primate interaction since 1960, in a recent L.A. Times opinion piece.  And a big part of the problem, Goodall says, is the way chimps are portrayed on television, in movies and in advertising:

Only a month ago, Americans watching the Super Bowl may have laughed at an ad in which chimpanzees dressed as mechanics worked on a car. They seemed cute, funny and even lovable. Is it any wonder viewers might think that chimpanzees would make great pets?

Nothing could be further from the truth. Only infant chimpanzees are used in entertainment and advertising, because as they approach maturity, at about 6 to 8 years of age, they become strong and unmanageable. Chimpanzees evolved in the tropical forests of Africa, and that's where they're suited to live, roaming in groups of their own kind. A house in Connecticut was a completely alien environment for a chimp.

Using chimps in entertainment, Goodall says, is also problematic because "it makes it hard for people to believe that these apes are actually endangered in the wild." 

The problems these animals face in the wild are severe and numerous, she explains:

Chimpanzees are losing habitat, in part because of commercial logging and in part because of encroachment by ever-growing human populations who live in poverty and cut down the forest to grow crops and graze cattle. This deforestation also contributes significantly to climate change. And sometimes chimpanzees are caught up in ethnic conflicts or killed for their meat, a practice that is believed to have led to the human strains of HIV.

The Connecticut tragedy should remind us not just that chimpanzees do not make good pets but that their fate is intimately tied to ours.

For more information, see Jane Goodall's full opinion piece and the sections Chimpanzees don't make good pets and Chimpanzees in entertainment of her website.

Do you agree with Goodall that the way chimps are portrayed in the public media is harmful to the species?

Travis the chimp killed by police after attacking woman
Travis' case may lead to new wildlife legislation
House votes to approve Captive Primate Safety Act

--Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Goodall visits Sydney's Taronga Zoo in July 2006 to observe the extended family of 19 chimpanzees.  Credit: Greg Wood /AFP/Getty Images

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I can't believe she has the nerve to speak about this. It was HER that brought the baby chimps and chimps to our TV sets years ago. She's the one that made us love the chimps to begin with. It's all her fault that these people have to have these animals. I blame it all on her. Why is it ok that she can play with them but she says it's not ok for anyone else to do it? Go away, your a hypocrite!!! Go play with your chimp on your little forest walks.

An excellent and impassioned argument against keeping wild creatures as pets from a woman who knows more about chimpanzees than anyone else in the world. If we truly care about the other animals that share our planet, we must respect them for what they are -- not what we want to turn them into.

Chimps' appearance in entertainment, including t.v., predates Goodall by decades. She has had a consistent and responsible approach to investigating what kind of relationship between chimpanzee and human societies would work the best. Extremists, including PETA, who want animals out of all entertainment are taking faulty logic to a harebrained conclusion -- but it's a pretty good bet that adult apes are not safe housepets, as most wild animals are not. Chimps, like parrots, need a large social group to be comfortable, not a solitary pet existence.

With regard to the comment by "Me": Ms. Goodall's intention from the beginning of her studies was to enlighten and inform the public about the plight of these primates and she always emphasized that while they look cute, they are by no means tame. These are creatures to be respected and not treated like toys. The line between education and exploitation is a very fine one and you have to remember that the problem exists everywhere. Remember the rash of dalmations turning up at shelters shortly after the Disney movie? Or all the clown fish being flushed after "Nemo"? It's the lack of some of the public's willingness to look beyond the cuddle factor of an animal and actually learn about it and what its needs are. Ms. Goodall does not deserve such a mean-spirited diatribe and you owe her a personal apology.

There were other ways of Goodall to get her point across rather then to be hugging and kissing on them. I don't see her hugging and kissing on a 15 yr old chimp, just the babies! There's no comparison to what she has done and what Disney did to make money. Or is there? Maybe she did do it for the money. How much money has she actually donated to anyone? the sanctuaries, the the zoos the foundations, check for yourself you'll be real surprised. Everything is for her. I will give an apology when she gives one to the public for loving on the chimps in front of us to begin with. Also find out how she got her Doctorate? I don't believe it was earned like Diane Fossey did. Now there's a real hero and educator, it's a shame she's not alive today. Be educated before you request such an outrageous thing! Check your facts, do some research, ask some "real" scientists.

To "me"
This is what I could find on her credentials
..........Goodall's interest in animals prompted notable anthropologist Louis Leakey to hire her as his assistant and secretary. Leakey arranged for her to return to the United Kingdom where she earned a doctorate in ethology from Darwin College, the University of Cambridge in 1964......Along with Dian Fossey, famous for living with gorillas, and Biruté Galdikas, who advanced studies in orangutans, Goodall was one of three women recently dubbed by some as "Leakey's Angels".

@Me. If you have any evidence for your ridiculous charges against Dr Goodall, please document them so we can all be enlightened -- and stop hiding behind a pseudonym.

People, Jane Goodall has done more to bring awareness to the plight of chimpanzees in the wild, in captivity and in labs than anyone on this planet. It was her research that led to the discovery that chimps use tools and hunt other monkeys - neither of which was ever imagined before her time. She is an advocate for the species and has always, always maintained that they are wild animals and should be kept and protected in the wild. To diss her now for her very thoughtful and 'larger picture' comments is disrespectful and ignorant of her work.

Jane Goodall didn't "play" with chimps and primates; she devoted her life to studying them. She was one of the first people to successfully bring to the attention of others how primates live and co-exist with one another in their natural habitats, as well as the dangers that threaten them.

She certainly never proposed that anyone should keep primates as pets, nor was she, as you say, solely responsible for the commercialization of their image. Using chimps and primates as playthings and marketing tools was going on way before Jane Goodall!

Dear "Me", who posted outrage about Goodal. She is a RESEARCHER who showed work with chimpanzees in their HABITAT. If Goodall "made" you love chimpanzees, you have a problem.

Hey now, Lawrence, don't try to lump parrots together with chimpanzees, though I agree that both are wild animals, whether kept in captivity or in the wild. And both are very intelligent. In case you haven't noticed, many people with parrots do keep large flocks of them -- it's a bird person thing -- and "captive" parrots are often quite happy living with humans. It's not unusual for an "escaped" bird to land on a stranger's shoulder in an attempt to find a new human, though some of them do revert to the wild. One of mine is an old, wild-caught parrot that will play in the trees for hours but always wants to come back inside the house.

Yes, I do agree.
But I do have to say that every time I have seen her in the wild with them, on documentary's it seems that she is interacting with them and making it seem they are great company..So I think she needs to focus more on their bad side herself.

The people who comment here are not primatologists, nor do they have the experience of Ms. Goodall. Would you dispute nuclear physics with Einstein or Hawkings? Listen to people who know what they are talking about.

Note the following passage in the section "Living Among Chimps" -

"In 1962 Leakey arranged for Goodall to work on a doctorate degree at Cambridge University, in England, which would give scientific weight to her discoveries. In 1965 she became the eighth person ever to receive a doctorate from Cambridge without having earned an undergraduate degree."


Where's the Masters and Bachelors Degree?

I wish someone had "arranged" that for me. I had to work on mine and pay for it, along with all of the other scientists.

Jane Goodall is absolutely right, but in the passages you quote from her, she does not address the fundamental objections to using chimpanzees as pets, as entertainers, and of course as victims of scientific experimentation in labs.

That these primates are portrayed as cuddly and pet-like is secondary. The primary problem is that mainstream society acquiesces in these activities, as is reflected by the legal classification of chimpanzees as "property" to be bought and sold. In fact, and as a matter of biology, chimps are much more like people than they are like property in general.
SEE: 'From Property to Person' in 11 Seton Hall Constitutional Law Journal at pp. 1-6 (2000), of which I am co-author.

What's really upsetting about reading some of these "me" comments about Jane Goodall is that I just finished reading a chapter in an anthropology textbook that was, in part, about Jane Goodall when I stumbled on this article.

Anyone who would accuse Goodall of popularizing the idea that chimps are friendly and make good pets doesn't understand the kind of research she conducted. To make the egregious argument that reading or watching material by Jane Goodall is the same as watching Dunston Checks In is ignorant, and I am disappointed to see that someone would post such a thing.

Diane Fossey did the same kind of research with gorillas - praising Fossey while attacking Goodall makes no sense. People just have enough common sense not to keep a gorilla as a pet because they're huge. The media portrays gorillas as destructive beasts as in King Kong. Chimps are cute. If all a person gets out of Jane Goodall's research is how cute and cuddly chimps are they are missing the point. Goodall was trying to portray chimps realistically, and interacted with them in their own habitat. Media portrayals of chimps as cuddly comic devices have been around almost since film began.

I like the comment about how she needs to focus on the bad side. As if they need to show footage of Jane Goodall being attacked by chimps, or running away from them? The problem is not Goodall, it is the audience. If you are too stupid to understand that wild animals are wild animals, and are potentially dangerous, that's your problem. Nobody is going to stop you from buying an alligator or a tiger or a chimp.

I am just so bothered that someone would post something that ignorant! Especially to make personal attacks about someone's education. The woman is a respected member of the zoological and scientific community, and she did that through a lot of hard work and passion. Also, to assume that all the money from Jane Goodall's foundations actually go to her? What? I don't understand why anyone would have some weird grudge against Jane Goodall, of all people. Go insult someone else with your half-baked poorly composed comments.

I see you are disillusioned. What a shame.

To 'Me'
If it's degrees you're worried about then keep in mind Dian Fossey had a degree in Ocupational Therapy went and hung out with some gorillas for awhile, did some amazing research and only went for a Ph D to bolster her scientific credentials.* Does that make her work any less meaningful and amazing?

Oh and diddims, you had to work at and pay for your degree? So do lots of people, I did, and strangely enough I don't make unfair, unbiased claims against people who were lucky enough to be sponsered. Good on them I say.

And seriously? "She's the one that made us love the chimps to begin with"? The only thing I can think is WtF? She held a loaded chimp in one hand, a loaded gun in the other and said "Love this chimp or you get the gun"? I totally missed that... weird.

If people seriously think that people saying (basically) 'Yes, they're cute but for Gods sake keep in mind they are dangerous animals and don't have them as pets, by the way, don't do this at home kids I'm an expert' means quick get one for a pet today, then they seriously need help.

One more thing, "How much money has she actually donated to anyone? the sanctuaries, the the zoos the foundations, check for yourself you'll be real surprised. Everything is for her" can you please let me know where you found this information? I'm interested because I've been searching for about an hour and cannot find anything to back this up.

*Oh, and I have nothing against Dian Fossey, I respect both ladies as much as each other.

Who is this "Me" person? What a coward!
It is obvious who is disillusioned here.
Congratulations to Jane Goodall and all the other scientists who are working to save our planet and animals from the destruction caused by humans.

"Me"'s comments are so ridiculously...stu...ridiculous, that one would think Me's arguments were fabricated to instigate more comments. In fact, I think "Me" is quite likely just that. A hired Blog-Instigator. Because no one on this earth is that stu...ridiculous.

Attacking JANE GOODALL??? Come on. Get real. Attacking Jane Goodall for inspiring public awareness and compassion for a species in grave danger, is like attacking Helen Keller for supporting the deaf blind.
It's a waste of good anger to let Me's comments upset you. Me is not real. And even if he/she is real, Me is a very small child from the planet Knuckle-Head and can't get a work visa.

Jane Goodall is a brilliant woman, who will remain in history forever for her research, her public education and for the compassion she has taught [most of] us toward beings so close to our own DNA and yet so far from our way of life.
Earthlings from all walks of life KNOW this! Even Me knows this.

Alright then, Me. You got all these people all flustered. Job well done. Now, brush your teeth and go to bed.

Me must not have watched all of Jane's documentaries. She missed the one where a chimp killed his new born sibling because he didn't want to share his mother,or the one that showed them ripping apart a monkey, or the one showing one family attacking and canabalizing another group.

She was a secretary for goodness sake or as you folks like to say WTF! Nice language, I must add. You have searched for an hour? Now that's real research. I have followed this lady for many years, I have tons of documentations that can't even be found on the internet. Try looking for the foundations financial reports, they are available to see what expenses have been made and to whom and why. Then check out the actual donations to whom they were for. Someone asked me for the information on her education on this comment section so I posted it. BTW you can find any financial report for any foundation, it's public knowledge. Some people are so disillusioned.


You've really spent years researching a lady that hangs out with chimps?!?!? Talk about WTF! You can't be serious. I used to watch Steve Irwin, almost every episode, so I guess that means I spent years researching him. He really humanized crocodiles and made them seem "cute" to some degree.

I still was smart enough to know that they can kill you and don't make good pets.

I did watch a lot of the old Jane documentaries when I was a child, and found them to be interesting in a lot of respects. I also remember being disturbed by the violence these WILD animals showed to one another.

I figured it out when I was less than 10 and have moved on with my life, never feeling the need to own any wild animal or argue that anyone else should.

If you have this much of an obsession with this woman, and have misspent years of your life on the topic, maybe it is time for you to reevaluate your goals in life.

Jane Goodall has done excellent research, and now she does excellent conservation work. No one, no matter how good, is universally loved. Some dogs just gotta bark. They have that right. And we have the right, and sometimes the responsibility, to ignore them.

@ me

Jane Goodall's doctoral thesis was the product of years of groundbreaking research that changed the definition of human. It was the basis for the most important scientific work ever written on primates, _The Chimpanzees of Gombe; Patterns of Behavior_.

You've followed her for years but didn't know that? Right.

You're either stupid, deranged, or just a troll. Congratulations.

It's obvious that "me" wants this blog to be all about them and, sadly, has succeeded. "me", who also has bad grammar and spelling, only comes off as sad, lonely, ignorant and bitter. Hate Dr. Goodall, or whoever, as hard as you can, but we can all see right through you.

Most of the people here are just encouraging "me" by responding at all. It's losers like him/her that make the internet so screwed up. Just ignore the little brat, and eventually he/she will go away.

Excuse the insults, but "me" is ticking me off.

I think Me has some valid points.
Especially that some animal biologists or ethologists may exploit their chosen species to grow their funding and in turn push their own adgendas for research.

To do that they may influence the public to believe the animals are somewhat benign or even sweet and cute when in fact they are animals with instincts and biological needs. We see this occuring on almost every animal documentary out there. We see it with wolves, tigers, and all the ape families. We do not see it with maggots however, becuase they are just not moneymakers.
I am not saying Jane Goodall does this but I have seen her join forces with some really extreme organizations in the past to enforce some political aspect to animal research.

I think that chimps should not be made as pets

Dear "Me",

Nobody else got it, but I did. Absolutely hilarious. Thanks for the laugh.
Yours Truly,

I totally agree with Jane's comments; the media portrays many things in a misleading way, and these ideas are not only limited to chimps.
I feel total sadness for Sharla Nash and her young daughter, they did not deserve any of these horrif events. The owner of the Chimp made a extraordinary mistake and should be held accountable, including monetarily for Sharlas medical expenses.

No wild or exotic animal is safe for human society!

What happened to Ms. Nash is very tragic, and I wish her and her family all the best. I hope that she can be a candidate for a hand transplant (even though she said that she can't get one). I blame individuals who think they can "tame" wild creatures. The chimp's owner is at fault, IMO. And "Me," to blame Jane Goodall is plain misinformation, and it misses the mark. Tarzan movies were out long before Goodall showed up with chimps back in the 1960's on Nat'l Geographic programs. No animal behaviorist or wildlife advocate that I know of, inc. Dr. Goodall, Jack Hanna, or Tippi Hedren, would have approved of people keeping chimpanzees as pets. Furthermore, Hedrin and Hanna are the first people who'd tell you to not have big cats, either.

Haha. You guys and Me are hillarious. I think research will eventually show that blogging causes stress. Bloggers Die at Earlier Age Due to Stress! I was just wondering, who the heck made kitties so adorable and lovable. This person owes me big time. Last spring my one-year old contracted Cat Scratch Fever from the animal shelter and someone owes me some big time medical bills!

"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. "
----Mark Twain

Did Jane Goodall ever explain how it was that she was never attacked in the course of her work on chimps in the wild? Even granting differences in the behavior of chimps in captivity, one would think that even one incident in which she unwittingly riled a chimp would have got her killed. It wouldn't have taken much to make that happen, it would seem, to judge from the attacks on Charla Nash and St. James Davis.

Ya see I dont like it when people put humans on pedistals and make them something more than what they are! Nothings all that great about Jane Goodall! She made herself famous so now her name is resounding, to an extent and that is what makes people say someone is great- jUst because of their popularity. Now dont get me wrong,she did what she did and I am no witness to it. I was not there. People climb the ladder all kinds of ways and many are ill gotten. So, her accomplishments are well noted but I dont really know what happened along the way. Mmmm, how is it you can get a Doctorate or Phd. without the others? For the record, No slight on her accomplishments, as noted by the people, but I am not exalting her, sorry!

Hey, me, you've got a lot of nerve blaming Jane Goodall. She was and is an advocate for the understanding and needs of primates in the wild. Only an idiot would take this as an endorsement for private ownership, just as only an idiot would think that George and Joy Adamson were promoting private ownership of lions with "Born Free".

Mark, there really is a great deal of difference between chimps living in the wild and chimps living in captivity. Most importantly they have a very complex social structure. Chimps living in sanctuaries and zoos live among their own kind and are allowed to develop a certain pecking order, although not as natural an order as one would find in the wild. Travis, the chimpanzee who attacked Carla Nash, had absolutely no contact with his own kind. Also, chimps usually stay with their mother for about five years. Travis did not have this; his mother, another privately owned primate, was shot and killed when he was a baby and he was sold to Ms. Herold. Raised by a human, with no interaction with his own kind, he truly was a stranger in a strange land. It goes a long way towards explaining why poor Mrs. Nash was attacked and why Ms. Goodall, who has worked so long with chimpanzees in the wild, has not been. Also I have no doubt that Ms. Goodall, as an expert in chimpanzee behavior, is much more aware of "warning signs" than any private owner who has no previous experience. On the morning of the attack Travis was described by his owner as agitated. Ms. Goodall would probably have seen this as a sign to not attempt any sort of interaction, including an attempt to lure him closer or to startle him. Unfortunately neither Ms. Herold nor Mrs. Nash had any such understanding or training and poor Mrs. Nash paid a very high price for her friends ignorance.

Jane Goodall is not a hypocite. You don't even know anything about her. If it wasn't for her animals would still be considered "mindless" and "souless", which is completely wrong! And there's no one better who could give you an educated guess as to what the chimp was thinking or why it attacked, than Jane Goodall. She didn't do it for money. Try reading one of her books.


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