On 14 July 1960, a young woman arrived in Gombe, Tanzania, to observe our closest relatives: chimpanzees. Her name was Jane Goodall, and her work changed the world. Today, the Jane Goodall Institute celebrates the 60th anniversary of her arrival in Gombe, marking the beginning of her ground-breaking research.
In 2018, Gombe Masito Ugalla became a Biosphere Reserve, working with UNESCO’ Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme. As the Jane Goodall Institute retraces their work in the site, their report highlights their strong connection with the very definition of what biosphere reserves stand for.
MAB is an intergovernmental scientific programme that promotes research to better understand and manage changes and interactions between people and their environments. The same principles that Dr. Jane Goodall (DBE) applied in Tanzania would rule the MAB Programme, and biosphere reserves, from 1971 on.
Building on Dr Jane Goodall’s pioneering work over the past 60 years, the Jane Goodall Institute has monitored and surveyed biodiversity in Gombe. This results in a unique database on the evolution of the chimpanzees’ habitat and behaviour but also of the entire ecosystem. Obtained through binoculars in the early years and through new technologies today, all of this information has been used to further our knowledge of animal behaviour, health and welfare but also of habitats. This led to new initiatives for the conservation and regeneration of habitats with the local communities.
It is wonderful news. I hope that it will lead to more recognition of a truly unique area that is home to almost all of Tanzania’s remaining chimpanzee population as well as for many other animals and their habitats. Hopefully, the added recognition of its importance will attract more funding to improve conservation efforts, and to improve the lives of local communities, and thus create new partners in conservation.
Dr Jane Goodall now draws from these 60 years of experience from the biosphere reserve of Gombe Masito Ugalla to advocate for the protection of great apes and the conservation of their habitats, as well as for local solutions to tackle global challenges. She founded a network, “Roots and Shoots”, that links teachers and students all over the world to work together on positive change in communities, for animals and the environment. Around Gombe, Roots and Shoots undertake conservation education and awareness projects in 130 primary and 29 secondary schools in the area.
The Gombe Masito Ugalla Biosphere Reserve thus encompasses all the values and missions of the MAB Programme: research programmes centred on nature, conservation efforts, reconciliation between nature and people, sustainable development through controlled tourism, participation of the local communities in the biosphere reserve management and projects and above all, involving youth and raising awareness to protect biodiversity for future generations.