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Happy 80th Birthday, Jane Goodall, From Nat Geo Explorers!

Jane Goodall observes the antics of two chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. (Photograph by Michael Nichols) In July 1960, at the age of 26, Jane Goodall traveled from England to what is today Tanzania and bravely entered the little-known world of wild chimpanzees. She was equipped with nothing more than a notebook and...

Jane Goodall observes the antics of two chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. (Photograph by Michael Nichols)

In July 1960, at the age of 26, Jane Goodall traveled from England to what is today Tanzania and bravely entered the little-known world of wild chimpanzees. She was equipped with nothing more than a notebook and a pair of binoculars, but with her unyielding patience and characteristic optimism, she won the trust of these initially shy creatures. Jane managed to open a window into their sometimes strange yet often familiar-seeming lives. The public was fascinated and remains so to this day. April 3, 2014, marks Jane’s 80th birthday. Explorers and National Geographic staff shared their favorite moments and thoughts on this special day.

Hardly a day goes by when we are not grateful for the wealth of iconic leaders National Geographic has had the pleasure to support. Not only were you out front at an early age with your catalytic views of chimp society, but you have also grown over decades as a key champion for youth awareness and conservation. You are elemental in our history, and your sterling example reigns supreme in our efforts to inspire the next generation of explorers.

—John Francis, Vice President, Research, Conservation, and Exploration, National Geographic Society

Happy Birthday, Jane Goodall! Thank you for modeling kind, humane living and for celebrating the intrinsic value of all living things. You are a hero for the planet and all its creatures.

—Catherine Workman, Committee for Research and Exploration, National Geographic Society

When I was in high school, I already knew my life would be dedicated to animals. Reading Jane Goodall’s In The Shadow of Man gave me my first and most influential insight into what animal behavior observations were all about. I traveled to Africa (from my family’s apartment in NYC) through Jane’s eyes and experience. Reading about Jane’s work and her adventures as a woman allowed me to imagine that I too, as a young woman, could travel and study wild animals. She opened a world to me that changed my life forever. Jane has influenced a generation of biologists to continue her legacy as the voice of animals for conservation. Happy Birthday Jane, and thank you.

—Lisa Dabek, Director of the Tree Kangaroo Conservation Program in Papua New Guinea

Picture of Mike Fay and Jane Goodall Mike Fay attempts to call chimps as Jane Goodall and her beloved stuffed monkey, Mr. H (a 1996 birthday present) wait. Goualougo, Congo. (Photograph by Michael Nichols)

Dear Dr Goodall, Here’s a note to wish you a very happy 80th birthday. You’ve been one of my major inspirations to keep working on biodiversity and its myriad connections with daily human life!

—Dino Martins

Jane is a good friend and an inspiration to me, like billions around the globe, in an up close kind of way. When we evacuated Aspinall’s gorillas and her chimpanzees from the Brazzaville Zoo under fire in 1997, we were able to get ancient Gregoire out, at Jane’s insistence; she would not let him die in the war. I admired that, and we became friends.

Anecdote: In the Ndoki with Jane years later, we had walked a very long distance to see naive chimpanzees, and she had the biggest blister on her foot that I have ever seen. She never complained. Next day we spent hours watching perhaps the only chimp society on Earth that had no collective memory of mankind: Jane was transformed.

—Mike Fay, Conservationsist, Explorer-in-Residence

Picture of Jane Goodall and chimps Jane Goodall and her old friend Fifi. Fifi is shown here with her offspring, Ferdinand and Faustino. (Photograph by Michael Nichols)

I want to congratulate Jane on her milestone birthday. I had the privilege of appearing with her at Chautauqua several years ago to speak on children’s education and on inspiring them to make the world a better place. No one epitomizes that better than Jane. She has inspired, is inspiring, and will continue to inspire children around the world to care about that world and all of its inhabitants.

—Gary E. Knell/President and CEO/National Geographic Society

Dear Jane,

I first met you in the Congo in about 1990, when working for the Brazzaville gorilla orphanage. It was wonderful to meet you back then, because I had grown up watching you on the telly. So to meet you in person in such an important part of the world for great ape conservation was very special. Remember Gregoire? I had already left Ndoki by the time you got to the Goualougo, but I’m glad you made it.

Have a very happy birthday and many happy returns.

The world needs people like you more than ever, so please keep on doing what you do.


—Stephen Blake, Whitney R. Harris World Ecology Center

Picture Jill and Jane Goodall Jane Goodall and Jill Pruetz when Jane was in Iowa. (Photograph courtesy Jill Pruetz)

I would love to wish Jane “Birthday Pant Hoots” and thank her for all she has done and continues to do for chimpanzees, the environment and women in science. I worry about a world without Jane Goodall, and I am glad she is here!

—Jill D. Pruetz, Biological Anthropologist

Dear Dr. Goodall,

Thank you for all that you have done over the course of your amazing career. From your conservation efforts to your showing generations of young people that they too can make a difference, your work has made the world a better place. Happy 80th birthday!

—Donald A. Slater, Brandeis University, Department of Anthropology
Picture of Dr. Jane Goodall and Roots & Shoots members plant trees at the  Shanghai Zoo in China.Dr. Jane Goodall and Roots & Shoots members plant trees at the Shanghai Zoo in China. (Photograph by Chris Dickinson)

Jane’s amazing career, including extensive fieldwork in Africa, has definitely inspired my own career in central Africa. In my upcoming book I quote Jane: “And so Congo-Zaire—or Congo-Kinshasa as it is often called today—is still a land of mystery, of untamed wilderness. It is a country that holds an irresistible appeal for the intrepid field biologist, for without doubt, much remains to be discovered.” That’s from the foreword to The Okapi: Mysterious Animal of Congo-Zaire, 1998.

—Eli Greenbaum, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Texas at El Paso

Picture of Jane and Freud Dr. Jane Goodall with Gombe chimpanzee Freud.  Photograph by Michael Neugebauer
Dr. Jane Goodall with Gombe chimpanzee Freud. (Photograph by Michael Neugebauer)

Many, many congratulations Jane—and still traveling the world getting the conservation message across. Inspirational and unmatched! Best wishes!

—Ian Singleton, Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme

Hi Jane-

Happy Birthday to you. What you have given the natural world and people is a giant present. Because of your love of chimps and natural history, you have inspired so many people to study the natural world and give voice for other living creatures. I loved being at Disney when you received one of your many awards and in Seattle at a TNC dinner you brought the house down with your chimp calls. Congratulations on another milestone. Thank you for all you have done to inspire people to help nature and make the planet a better place. One event that I cherish is when the New York Times called me the Jane Goodall of penguins. That was a big honor because you are one of my heroes. Happy Birthday!

—Dee Boersma, Biologist

Ways to Celebrate Jane’s Birthday:

  • Sign the global birthday card for Jane – This is a great way to send a personal message to Jane that she will receive on her birthday. Simply share the link in a blog post, on social media, or to your personal contacts. So many people are grateful to learn about this opportunity to send their own personal message to Jane for her big day.

  • Send a birthday message or card – If you want to send Jane a more visual message for her birthday you can upload photos and videos to this gallery here. Jane will receive these on her birthday and they will be seen by people all over the world online.

  • Tune in to the live birthday broadcast – On April 3, at 6 p.m. GMT the whole world can tune in to a live-on-YouTube Google+ Hangout birthday party with Jane. The party will feature remarks from Jane herself, young people sharing stories of projects they are dedicating to her, and so much more. All you have to do is visit You can even use the hashtag #80yearsofJane to ask questions during the live Hangout!

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Meet the Author

Amy Bucci
Amy Bucci is a web producer for National Geographic. Her projects mainly cover National Geographic explorers, grantees and initiatives.