It was after Jane Goodall read “Tarzan of the Apes” as a child that she decided she would grow up, travel to Africa and study the great creatures.
When she shared her excitement with others, people laughed at her and told her “those aren’t the kinds of things that girls do.” But it didn’t stop her.
Goodall, a world-renowned primatologist, spoke Tuesday at Bakersfield College to more than 2,000 guests about her research on chimpanzees.
She said that when she was young, the idea that animals and plants could communicate was “laughable” to others.
But Tuesday, more than 400 attended a reception at the Kern County Museum — which was held prior to the speech — to meet and celebrate her.
Goodall said she gets the same warm welcome in every country visits, whether it’s China or the U.S. She said it is a huge change from what she was used to as a young researcher.
Goodall, who will be 80 on Thursday, has spent more than 50 years studying and sharing her unique research on primate,s and on human and animal interaction.
She said her love of all animals came at a young age — a love of everything from worms to apes.
Goodall shared stories of her experiences watching and interacting with chimpanzees in the wild.
“The most significant thing I learned is how like us they are,” she said.
She was the first to discover that chimpanzees have a variety of advanced skills.
“I will never forget the day I first saw a chimpanzee use a tool,” she said.
Prior to the observation, the idea was unheard of.
Future research found that chimpanzees share more than 96 percent of the DNA humans have, and the anatomy of the animal’s brain is similar to that of a human’s, she said.
What most astounded her was not the details such as those, but rather when research found that chimpanzees can interact as a family and as a community in ways that are similar to that of humans.
Goodall’s latest book, “Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants,” is on the role of trees and plants in the environment. It was available for sale at the event, and Goodall signed copies for guests.
“I hope this book inspires people,” Goodall said.
Goodall’s work began in July 1960 when she was 26 and traveled from England to Tanzania to study chimpanzees, according to her biography. Her career blossomed from there.
The Jane Goodall Institute, founded in 1977, is a global nonprofit agency that builds on her work, according to the organization’s website. The Institute’s goals include improving the understanding and treatment of apes with research, advocacy and public education.
The largest chimp sanctuary in Africa, the Tchimpounga Chimpanzee Rehabilitation Center, is operated by the Jane Goodall Institute as well.
Goodall said that even at nearly 80 years old she can’t imagine retiring from the career she is so passionate about.
“Who has time for retirement?” Goodall joked.