World-renowned environmental conservationist Dr Jane Goodall shares her views on the future of our planet and how we should think about animals. The interview comes right after her talk at the British Council's Café Scientifique evening in Hong Kong yesterday.
What approach should we take when we think about animal conservation?
When I look at an animal, I think the best place for it is in the wild, in a protective area or something similar. But then you look at the reality on the ground, think about elephants and rhinos poaching, helicopters coming into national parks, chimpanzees being caught, the risk of Ebola, and things of that sort. And you look at the zoo with small, cramped cages and that’s horrible as well.
But I’ve seen zoos where they have really big groups of chimpanzees. They live together and their lives are enriched. They’ve got things to climb, things to do, and people who care about them and understand them.
When you think about an animal, you have to say to yourself: 'I don’t want to think about it as a human being, but think about it as if I were a chimpanzee'. Probably if I were a chimp, I would choose the zoo because, in the wild, some chimps have a horrible time. It can be totally miserable for them. So we have to try and put ourselves in the mind of the animals and not think how we want to enjoy them.
What has the Jane Goodall Institute been doing recently?
We are raising money in the US for our Africa programme. The problems in Africa can be corruption, trade, Ebola, catching and killing mothers to take their babies and ship them illegally around the world. And there are chimpanzees from China -- we're not quite sure how they get there.
We’ve done a lot in Africa to improve the lives of the people who in turn are helping to conserve the chimpanzees. African people used to be resentful of white people coming in, but now they have become partners. We are helping conservation in five African countries, where we train local people to monitor the regrowth and protection of the forests.
You seem to enjoy working on the Roots and Shoots programme. Can you tell us why you choose to focus on working with young people?
We are destroying our planet and we have compromised their future. If they don’t have hope, we could go under. So the goal of the programme is to create a critical mass of youth that understand we need money to live, but we shouldn’t live for money. If we can get that critical mass, they will be the next politicians, teachers, scientists, parents, and so on.
But at the same time, it’s not too late for adults. Children are changing their parents all the time. I also talk to a lot of adults, including government officials, and people who come to my talks.
What would be your most important piece of advice for young people?
The advice would be what my mother told me -- that if you really want something, you will need to work really hard. You should take advantage of opportunities and never give up.