National Geographic News
Primatologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Jane
Goodallis in Washington, D.C. for the premiere of her new television
documentary Chimps in Crisis, airing on National Geographic
EXPLORER on MSNBC on Sunday. She talks about the crisis and her changing
role as a spokesperson on hot-button environmental issues.
Q: You have said that bushmeat [flesh from hunted wild animals] has reached such a crisis that if something is not done to stop it, the great apes will disappear from the wild within our lifetime. You have been working so hard to make an impact, spread the word, and educate people about this. Have you made any progress?
A: Sadly, the picture has not changed that much. The Jane Goodall Institute has a program, the Congo Basin Project, that we have just started on the ground. We are working with other conservation groups, NGOs, and particularly with groups of women who are selling bushmeat in the markets.
These women know bushmeat is not sustainable, so they're beginning to issue licenses to hunters, and they won't buy bushmeat if it is not from a licensed member of their cooperative.
We are also working with the logging industry, trying to find imaginative ways that the companies can control the carrying of meat on their trucks. Perhaps they can have some checkpoints on the roads. Above all, they need to find an alternate protein source for their staff.
None of this is easy.
We are working with governments in the range countries to enforce their own regulations and laws when it comes to hunting endangered animals. And we're working with organizations like the World Bank to fund some environmentally sustainable programs that will improve the lives of local people. We have to try as much as possible to remove the need for some of the illegal hunting.
Q: What's the latest estimate of the number of chimpanzees in the wild? Is there any sign of a turnaround?
A: We don't know exactly how many chimps there are. Ten years ago it was estimated to be 250,000. Today there may be 200,000. But the estimates vary. We see different figures all the time.
Attempts to focus on the problem are springing up on the ground. One interesting initiative that has come up for the first time is for the United Nations to create World Heritage Specieslike the World Heritage Sites. The idea is to declare the great apes World Heritage Species.
There is a rising awareness of the issue.
Q: How is your "Roots and Shoots" initiative working out?
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