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The Planet

How Protecting Chimps and Family Planning Go Hand in Hand

by Lauren Kelnhofer


Give a hoot: Dr. Jane Goodall pant-hoots with an orphan chimp at the JGI Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. (Note: This is a sanctuary chimp. Goodall does not handle wild chimps.) Photo by Michael Neugebauer

When you hear the name Jane Goodall, you probably think of chimpanzees, not family planning for humans. But there’s more of a connection than at first glance—in some areas where the legendary primatologist works, like Tanzania, human population growth endangers chimp habitat.

Dr. Goodall delivered the keynote address in April for the Sierra Club’s annual Population Activist Training in Washington, D.C., explaining how her institute’s TACARE program in Tanzania works with local communities to improve their lives, and in doing so, protects the primates and their habitat. TACARE helps plant trees, prevent soil erosion, and provide family planning, education, and economic opportunities for women.

Goodall, who preceded her remarks with the customary hooting chimpanzee greeting she learned from her years of field work in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, spoke after 150 population activists had fanned out over the capitol for three days lobbying their representatives and senators to boost funding for international family planning programs and eliminate policies restricting access to family planning services. The weekend workshop was hosted by the Sierra Club’s Global Population and Environment Program, the National Wildlife Federation, and Population Connection.

Chimps are the closest species to humans, says Goodall. For example, humans can get blood transfusions from chimps, but chimps can’t get them from gorillas. And like humans, chimps use verbal and nonverbal communication, and teach their offspring behaviors that are passed down through through the generations. Chimps also use tools, which has forced scientists to redefine what it means to be human.

“Dr. Goodall and the Sierra Club agree that providing communities with information and access to opportunities and healthcare services invests not only in the people and the environment, but also in the future of the chimpanzees,” says Sarah Fairchild, of the Club’s Global Population and Environment Program.

Take Action: Urge your senators and representatives to support $800 million for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s family planning programs. Go to sierraclub.org/action. For more information about the Sierra Club’s Global Population and Environment Program, go to: sierraclub.org/population. For more on Dr. Goodall, see janegoodall.org.


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