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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: July 2010

14 - Long-term research and conservation in Gombe National Park, Tanzania



Louis Leakey hoped that a study of chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, living on the shores of a lake might give clues as to the behavior of Miocene hominoids living on the shores of Lake Victoria, on the islands of Rusinga and Mfangano. Accordingly, he arranged for Jane Goodall to start observing the chimpanzees of Gombe on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika in July 1960.

As it turned out, the proximity of the lake was not relevant, but information about their behavior was of great significance. Like our earliest ancestors, chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) hunted for meat and shared the kill. And they used and made tools, a behavior believed to be unique to our own species – so that Leakey gleefully suggested that we must redefine man, redefine tool, or include chimps as human! As a result of these and other fascinating discoveries, both Jane Goodall and the Gombe chimpanzees gained a good deal of publicity around the world (Goodall, 1965, 1971). This attracted funding from a succession of donors. Other scientists and students arrived to work at Gombe, and the Gombe Stream Research Centre (GSRC) was established in 1964. The study has continued from 1960 until the present day: there have been over 200 scientific papers, 35 Ph.D. theses, over 30 books, nine films, over 160 popular articles and secondary writings, and hundreds of lecture tours and conferences; and students trained at Gombe have moved on to study chimpanzees elsewhere, as well as different species of primates and other animals in other countries.

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